Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Mary Ann Barton, pioneering Kindergarten teacher, who signed the petition from her home and school premises at 11 Lime Grove, Chorlton on Medlock, Manchester, was born in Manchester in 1831.  Her mother died before she was twenty and in the 1851 census she is living with her father and two siblings.  Her father had a very chequered business career, which meant that by 1861 she was the breadwinner with a Kindergarten in the family home.  John Wrigley Barton was at times a cotton spinner and cotton waste dealer.  With his brother Horatio he went in and out of various partnerships.  One was dissolved in 1830, another in 1837.  In March 1840 he was declared bankrupt, and in 1852 having been allowed to trade again, was declared insolvent (Insolvent no 74,8720)  Only months before Marianne signed the petition, her father had died, leaving an inheritance of under £20.

Around 1856, however, Marianne had been trained in the Froebel system of education by Madame Ronge, at the Home and Colonial Training School in Grays Inn Road..  Presumably her father must have paid for this course, which shows more evidence of foresight than his own career reveals.  She set up one of the earliest Kindergartens in Manchester in 1857 at 15 Cecil Street Greenhays.   Mr and Mrs Ronge came to Manchester to lecture on Frobel’s methods in 1857 and as a result a Manchester Committee for the Extension of the Kindergarten System was formed.  It would be interesting to find the list of members of this committee.  I imagine that Marianne must have been involved.  Mme Ronge set up a training school at Whalley Grange shortly afterwards. (see Lawrence, Evelyn (ed.)  Friedrich Froebel and English Education RKP 1952 p41 )  By 1861 Marianne had a 15 year old assistant, Minnette Walker, and was running the nursery from her father’s home at 11 Lime Grove.  In 1867 she joined Manchester Board of Schoolmistresses.  The 1871 census shows that she had expanded her staff and had three assistant teachers living in, including Minnette and Anna Snell from Dresden.  Several Froebel teachers came over to Manchester to help spread the Kindergarten methods, and Anna may have been one of them.  Minette Walker went on to run her own school in Halifax for many years.   By 1881 Marianne had one teacher boarding with her and 2 servants and had moved to 171 High Street Chorlton on Medlock  It appears that by 1891,  like many unmarried  teachers, she had retired to a modest boarding house – in her case in Penzance- and was living ‘on her own means’


As a single woman, with a modest business, it was particularly admirable that she felt confident enough in 1868 to subscribe to the local suffrage society  The Manchester Society for Women's Suffrage, whilst continuing her pioneering teaching career.   Several hundred teachers signed the petition, but only a few went on, like Marianne, to publicly support the Suffrage Societies formed following the petition.  I suspect that they had not imagined the opposition that the proposition would provoke when they signed.   Fired by the success of the printing of the petition for University Local Examinations in 1865, it must have seemed an excellent strategy to distribute the list to the press and MP’s.  But for many of the women, running schools, shops and businesses, the publicity must have been problematic and threatening to their livelihood. However the publicity does not appear to have affected Marianne’s career.

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