Schooling of the girls

How were the Martin girls schooled?

The education of young girls from good families generally took place in convents because it was thought that religion needed to be part of feminine education in order to guarantee the moral standards and stability of the home. However, a little review of the contents of this education reveals a distressing poverty. In the convent, young girls learned drawing, music, embroidery, tapestry and dance. Then add a little general culture: grammar, arithmetic, geography, history. This description is roughly in accordance with the school books of the Martin girls. But let’s be realistic: the kind of school book used by the Martin sisters measured 14.5 cm by 9 cm (5 ¾ inches by 3 ½ inches) with a rather large typeface. The contents would fit in one or two good magazine articles. 

See the schoolbooks here






Marie-jeune Pauline Leonie-jeune Celine jeune TH jeune
At the Sisters of Providence: Marie began her schooling with a brief stay at the school of the Sisters of Providence in Alençon.

At the Visitation: In October 1868, Marie entered the boarding school of the Visitation of Le Mans. M. and Mme. Martin entrusted their two oldest to this boarding school adjoining the Visitation where the presence of aunt Marie-Dosithée would be a good influence. Marie remained there seven years, she would leave in 1875. She left with a lot of secular knowledge and a first rate religious formation.



At the Sisters of Providence: like Marie, Pauline began her schooling at the Sisters of Providence in Alençon.

At the Visitation: In October 1868, she entered with her sister in the boarding school of the Visitation of Le Mans. M. and Mme. Martin entrusted their two oldest to this boarding school adjoining the Visitation.

After 1875, Pauline pursued her schooling alone at Le Mans. Very intelligent and studious, she was a brilliant student, especially in certain branches of knowledge such as French, drawing and cosmography. The last year of her stay in Mans was plunged into mourning by the death of her aunt, Sr. Marie-Dosithée on February 24, 1877. During the first days of the month of August, Pauline left her dear Visitation with the hope of returning there one day, to offer her life to God.

At the Sisters of Providence: Léonie met up with Marie and Pauline as a day boarder at the grade school run by the Institute of the Sisters of Providence, 5 rue du Pont-Neuf behind the church Notre Dame d’Alençon.

At the Visitation: Mid-June 1871, Léonie joined her two older sisters at the Visitation of Le Mans, entrusted to Sr. Marie-Dosithée, for a try. The initial success was cut short and the child was not admitted with the start of classes in October. She was unable to fit into a normal class. In autumn 1871 it seemed like a good idea for her to go back to the Providence while benefiting from private lessons given by a young lady with her higher certificate. In the beginning of January 1874, a new try at the Visitation of Mans…which ended on April 6th. Back home in Alençon, she was entrusted to two so-called religious who gave her lessons in the afternoon. Mme. Martin realized that these persons were disreputable and couldn’t continue to trust her daughter to them. 

At home: in August 1875, Léonie found herself entrusted to Marie who had just finished her studies. She gave her lessons and helped her overcome a little her serious handicap with studies.

At the Abbey: when the family moved to Lisieux, Léonie entered with the Benedictines as a boarding school student at the Abbey which was attended by her Guérin cousins. She would remain there from the beginning of 1878 until vacation of 1881 and kept some very strong ties with her former school teachers.
At home: in Alençon the first lessons were with Marie in the house. Her mother wrote that she learned quickly and well, without trying too hard.

At the Abbey: in Lisieux at the beginning of 1878, Celine entered as a day boarder with the Benedictines at the Notre Dame du Pré Abbey at the same time that Léonie was entering as a boarding school student. Even though she was placed with older students, she rose easily to the head of the class and kept this position until the end. Two of her reports have been kept; those of Thérèse would have used the same form. We also have some honorary cards, awards reserved for good students.

At the end of the 1885 school year, Celine finished her studies. She left the boarding school with honors. Freed from classes, she led a very active life.

In private classes: to improve her gift for drawing, she took classes with Mademoiselle Godard, student of the painter Léon Cogniet, then later with Krug.

At home: in Alençon in order not to leave Céline, she attended lessons that Marie was giving Céline. In 1877, on August 2nd or 3rd, Marie told her aunt, Mme. Guérin, about the award ceremony she organized for Céline and Thérèse. In Lisieux, Thérèse was the student of her two older sisters; Marie provided the writing class, Pauline everything else (reading, grammar, spelling, arithmetic, scripture, etc).

At the Abbey: on October 3, 1881, Thérèse entered the Abbey as a day boarder, meeting up with her sister, Céline and her Guérin cousins. One year in the green class, two years in the violet class, two years in the orange class. In fact, the last year would be interrupted during the month of March, 1886. Because of Thérèse’s poor health, she took private lessons from then on.

With Madame Papinau: from September 21st, 1886 –March 1888. This 51 year old school teacher received Thérèse at her house. The lessons lasted an hour and were spread out through the month, rarely several per week. After her “Christmas conversion of 1886”, Thérèse wrote in her manuscript A “…at this time, I had a great desire to learn. Not being satisfied with the lessons and homework the teacher gave me, I undertook alone special studies of history and science. The other subjects left me indifferent, but these two drew all my attention. As well, in a few months, I acquired more knowledge than during my years of studies.”

See her school notebooks (French)