Gender and vocational education in Europe (19th-20th centuries)

Bischoffsheim Vocational School, Brussels, circa 1900.  Postcard.
École pratique de commerce et d’industrie de Rouen, typewriting classes, 1920s.  Carte postale. © Musée national de l’Éducation.

The history of vocational education remains a little-explored component of the history of European societies, not only due to its more complex structures as compared to “general” education, but also to the less prestigious social status ascribed to it. Even less well known is the role played by girls and women within various national systems, as though their occupational training was not a concern. Yet from the last third of the nineteenth century, the vocational education of women began to be discussed, and developed modestly alongside largely male educational opportunities.. Beyond the mosaic of national situations, two primary dynamics bear mentioning. The first relates to the movement of women’s emancipation enabled by access to vocational education, and thereby to the skilled labour market. The second is connected, in the context of societies highly impacted by the two Industrial Revolutions, to how training courses helped structure a labour market highly segmented by gender.