The Markham Project: further developments

!markham girls in training

Edwardian students at a pinic much like the Markham girls

There has been a great response to the post on the Markham Project. Not only has it been the most popular post to date in just 10 days, but also there has been a lot of feedback from many out there, so thanks for that.

David Roman has a lot to go on in his research and has passed on some titbits for publication.

In our previous post, we asked the question was Elisabeth Markham real or fictional character made up to titillate magazine readers during the 1950s. Apparently, we still don’t have a definitive answer on that. However, we are now fairly certain that if she is a fictional character then she was born in the early 1930s or earlier.

This brings her to within 25 years of the time the alleged real person was said to be active, within contemporary living memory. This means that she is much more likely to be have been the same Elisabeth Markham who is known to have existed as a contact of a certain educationalist at an extant ladies college in southern England.

The names of the latter are withheld to protect the guilty since they were not public during there life time and current college authorities and grandchildren of the participants may understandably turn their wrath this way.

There is more to tell on this read on.

But what exactly is the Markham Project? The confusion has arisen because the name Markham Project was invented during the 1960s for a magazine article, itself a rehash of at least two previous articles, one in 1950s and the other published around 1930.

The Markham Project was original known as the Markham and Maybury Academy of Correctional Education. Maybury may be a place or more likely the pseudonym of a backer who wished to remain anonymous.

The academy was most probably an aspiration or virtual entity since no trace can be found of any actual place; perhaps it was a sort of Edwardian Cyber College? Does anyone out there know different?

As previously stated the aims of the M&M ACE, or the Markham Project, were to encourage best practice in the training of governesses and the education of young women.

“This can be effectively pursued through means of the thorough application of corporal punishment. All young women over the age of 16 and unmarried ladies up to a late age are not so frail in nature that they cannot benefit from all manner of robust forms of punishment.”

“Let us be clear, young women who seek to guide other more innocent or less developed girls must be forearmed in the best way possible. Furthermore it is essential that they themselves under go such training that they themselves seek to propagate.”

In typical Edwardian style it is quite verbose and at times the prose hesitates to spell out the delicate nature of its subject. But later on, the beast finally breaks cover leaving the reader in no doubt where it is going.

“They should not shirk from administering a spanking, caning, birching and other forms of physical correction.”

Who were they appealing to?

“Young women up to the age of 30 and females of all social conditions wishing to better themselves may consider that they could benefit from our association. May they be unmarried, widowed or mothers wishing to better regulate their own daughters and servants.”

It goes on to invite older women, “but understands that for them it may be beyond them to submit to the necessary” and that they should “proceed with caution to their own sensibilities.”

Elsewhere she writes;

“One young woman of 23 came to me saying she was quite disappointed with English girls her own age, saying that they lacked discipline and she had taken a post in Kenya. She told me that in her new post she would be required to teach two young girls of 14 and 17 something of a British education and to tame their wilder natures. The latter being a quote from her new employer the girls’ guardian.”

“She told me it had been made clear to her that she should thrash the girls whenever the occasion demanded it and that she was to consider it her primary task as the girls were barely fit to be taught anyway and she was only to do her best in that regard.”

“To the girl’s credit she was optimistic that she could teach the girls quite well enough. However she was less certain on how to proceed when it came to administering corporal punishment never having experienced it herself beyond a few taps with a slipper to the age of 12.”

“I told her firmly that she was on no account to address the younger girl with anything more harsh than a slipper or at most a hairbrush. Although I stressed as ever that in all but the mildest rebukes it was essential to first bare the buttocks.”

“With the older girl, I told her, she should be at pains to establish the exact nature of her previous regime as it would not do to be too severe from the outset or worse still to be too cautious. I then told this young woman to undress as far as she may and I would give her a close demonstration on how to proceed.”

“She was at first astounded and did protest, but I was firm. She said she had not bargained on such a thing, but after I assured her I would correct her only as she should the younger girl, she agreed.”

“There were many more protests when I addressed myself to lowering her draws but my will prevailed, being used to such carrying on. I then proceeded to give the spoilt baggage the spanking of her life with a hairbrush I keep for the purpose. She took it much better than I would have thought, although towards the end she set to shouting and weeping. I did not desist until I had extracted a promise from her to stand meekly in the corner until given leave to remove herself.”

“She did as she was told and obeyed in not covering herself in all ways required of her. And although I kept her there for some considerable time she did not rebel. Afterwards she sheepishly agreed that it had been most instructive and grudgingly thanked me.”

“I told her that on the next occasion I would use harsher measures more suited to the older girl when she became accustomed to it. She assured me that on no account would she return and I assured that she would.”

“I proved to be right in the matter and on the next occasion gave her a much harsher spanking for being late. I was as amused as she was perplexed when she found out that the spanking was not what I had intended for her and she had yet to submit to a few strokes of the cane.”

“She came many times after that, although after the second time I had to promise that she would get to practice herself before embarking for Kenya. It was in this manner that we graduated her through ever harsher applications until she was quite the veteran and could take a fair birching without undue fuss.”

“I was as good as my word and on her last visit she both spanked and administered a light birching to a younger girl of my acquaintance who was in need. I asked her afterwards if she had benefited from her instruction and she said that she regretted that she had not had such guidance before and thanked me.”

“That was four years ago and I heard that she was considered a success in her undertaking and had been engaged by another family in a similar capacity for a time. Although lately I heard that she had married. A loss to education I feel sure.”

!markham_inactionOne member of the ‘association’ seems to be the afore mentioned educationalist. She was much more discreet, but it appears she thought nothing of birching her undergraduate students ‘on the bare’ if they did not come up to scratch.

In a letter to an E Markham she writes:

My Dear Miss Markham,

I trust this finds you in good health.

I was pleased to receive your missive of the 14th agreeing to address our select gathering of like-minded students. If I may address your understandable concerns from the outset, I can assure you that it will be a small group of no more than five or six young women from my little inner circle of girls.

All of them are reconciled to my methods and are curious to know more about such disagreeable but necessary proceedings. Many of them seek to enter education to give other young women the same opportunities that they themselves have enjoyed and wish to advise themselves of such practices and the place of such things in the new century.

Unfortunately, I think it is too soon for most of them to speak of their inner feelings and experiences in such matters before others and so I fear you will be holding court on your own with regard to the discourse.

However, a number of them have agreed to write short essays on the matter in hand. Indeed Emily begged off an additional dozen last Wednesday in return for writing such an essay for your perusal.

I look forward to our meeting and thank you again.

Yours truly,

Miss A.

We do not know for certain that the note is addressed to the same Miss Markham. If it is then the letter takes on a new significance.

Otherwise, the note itself is quite innocuous. Only the phrases ‘such disagreeable but necessary proceedings’ and ‘Emily begged off an additional dozen last Wednesday in return for writing such an essay’ are at all suggestive.

However, if there is still any doubt, there are apparently other communications, not yet available to us, that are more to the point.

This update is hopefully as interesting as the previous post and hopefully there will be more light shed on this in future.


8 Responses to “The Markham Project: further developments”

  1. 1 Miriam

    The group photo looks like one I have of my great-grandmother. Also she was a teacher at a girls school, my grandmother told me that they used to cane the girls there, so this is all very believeable.

    Also my great Aunt went to a girls’ school in Kent in the late 1940s and 1950s where they still used the birch.

    I am afraid I don’t know any more, but I have often wondered.

    Miriam B, Maidstone

  2. 2 Susie

    My Mother went to a private grils school in Kent during the 1960s.

    The used the birch there. She has lots of stories.

    She hated it at the time but now she talks about it as if it was fun.

    Susie Q.

  3. 3 Steve

    Well don’t hold back.

    What are these stories?

  4. 4 Janet Beam

    Hi All

    I had to de-lurk for this one (sorry I did not de-lurk when you told me too – I am such a naughty girl).

    My Aunt went to a private girls’ school, also in Kent (?) and she got birched there.

    I always thought it odd as I thought the birch was a victorian punishment.

    Whenever I asked her about it she just told me to mind my beeswax.

    I looked up birching and found no trace of any school like it. The one interesting thing I did find was that birching was and I quote “almost always carried out on the bared buttocks”!

    The thick plottens!!!

    Janet ‘the minx’ Beam.

  5. 5 Tom

    I hate to be a party pooper and I would love to be wrong, but as I understand it a traditional birching has to be given on the bare bottom.

    Are we sure that we mean birch? Its hard to believe that school girls would get a bare bottom punishment in the 20th century.

    Perhaps she meant a cane made from birch wood?

    Love the Markham stuff and I am also enjoying Angela’s story – now that could be based on truth.


  6. 6 Susie

    Sorry you are so cynical Tom

    Nope mummy dearest received whippy little twiggs across the bare bot-bot.

    The birch was for older gals or for very serious offences. Younger girls usually got the slipper (not bare).

    But you do have a good point though Tom. The birch was only semi-official. The parents knew and it was an open secret that they used it. Official they advertised themselves as not using the cane. Those rascals.

    Mum got it between 16 and 18 for smoking, pushing a girl out of a window, being caught with a boy in a potting shed, being out of bounds whilst being gated for being out of bounds.

    She said it was very embarrassing and stung. Apparently it left marks like a nettle rash that were sore for days.

    Susie Q

  7. 7 John

    My wife got birched at school when she was 17.

    And you guessed it she went to a private girls school in Kent!

    She was there in the early 1970s.


  8. 8 Pypeexcerie

    I’m often looking for brand new information on the world wide web about spanking. Thankz!

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