What Is A Governess?

Are you curious to know what is a governess? You have come to the right place as I am going to tell you everything about a governess in a very simple explanation. Without further discussion let’s begin to know what is a governess?

In the annals of history and literature, the figure of the governess holds a unique place. Often depicted as a compassionate educator and mentor, the governess played a crucial role in the upbringing and education of children from privileged families. In this blog post, we will explore who a governess is, her historical significance, and the evolving role of this profession in modern times.

What Is A Governess?

A governess is a female teacher or educator who is employed to provide private tuition and guidance to children in a household. Historically, the governess was a common figure in aristocratic and upper-middle-class families, serving as a primary educator for young girls and sometimes boys.

Key Aspects Of The Governess’s Role:

  1. Education: The primary responsibility of a governess was to educate her charges, covering a wide range of subjects, including literature, music, mathematics, foreign languages, and social graces.
  2. Moral and Social Development: Beyond academics, a governess often played a significant role in shaping the moral and social character of her pupils, instilling values, etiquette, and proper behavior.
  3. Companionship: Due to their constant presence in the household, governesses often served as companions to their charges, filling the role of a confidante and mentor.
  4. Flexible Scheduling: Unlike formal schools, governesses tailored their teaching to the needs and schedules of the individual family, allowing for a more personalized education.

Historical Significance Of Governesses

Governesses have left an indelible mark on literature and culture, often portrayed as dedicated and compassionate educators in novels such as Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre” and Henry James’s “The Turn of the Screw.” Their historical significance is rooted in several key aspects:

  1. Social Status: Governesses occupied a unique social position, being neither fully part of the family nor distinctly separate from it. They were often well-educated women from the middle class who found employment in wealthy households.
  2. Gender Roles: The role of governess allowed women in the 18th and 19th centuries to pursue a profession that was considered respectable and suitable for their gender, while also contributing to their financial independence.
  3. Literary Figures: Governesses in literature often embodied the virtues of patience, resilience, and intellectual curiosity. They served as both protagonists and symbols of the challenges faced by women in a rigidly structured society.

The Evolution Of The Governess

As societal norms and education systems evolved, the role of the governess gradually declined. Several factors contributed to this shift:

  1. Formal Education: The establishment of formal schools, including girls’ schools, reduced the demand for private governesses.
  2. Changing Gender Roles: With changing attitudes toward women’s roles in society, more career opportunities opened up for women beyond teaching in private homes.
  3. Social Reforms: Educational reforms in the 19th and 20th centuries sought to provide more accessible and standardized education for all children, regardless of social class.
  4. Legislation: Labor laws and regulations began to address issues of working conditions and wages for governesses.


The role of the governess, while no longer as prevalent as in past centuries, remains a symbol of the transformative power of education and the potential for women to pursue meaningful careers. The governess’s legacy lives on not only in literature but also in the ongoing efforts to provide quality education and guidance to young minds. Today, educators, mentors, and caregivers continue to play a vital role in shaping the character and future of the next generation, echoing the spirit of the governess in their commitment to nurturing minds and manners.

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Is A Governess The Same As A Nanny?

A nanny is more likely to work with babies, toddlers, and young children, focusing on their basic care needs and supporting their developmental milestones. However, a governess is more focused on education, and as such they usually work with children who are at school, from around age 6 upwards.

Do Governess Still Exist?

Today’s governesses need to have full education credentials and certifications in addition to several years of experience in both education and childcare. Families who choose the services of a governess do so for a variety of reasons.

Could A Governess Marry?

Getting married was one way that the governess might be able to leave her job. But it was hard for her to meet suitable men. Female employers often worried that the governess might try to marry one of the young gentlemen of the house.

Why Do The Von Trapp Children Need A Governess?

The death of their mother meant the seven children needed a governess. Many were hired but none stayed very long… until Maria. Also unlike the stage version of the story, the von Trapp house had always been full of music.

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