Margaret Coombs Speaking at the 2012 ChildLightUSA Charlotte Mason Educational Conference
June 6, 7, 8, 9, 2012
Gardner-Webb University, Boiling Springs, NC
Near Charlotte, NC
Margaret Coombs is a social historian, researcher and retired mental health practitioner, who has worked in a variety of mental health posts, including community care rights and as a Mental Health Act Commissioner. She is married to an Anglican Priest and has two children, an artist and a theatre director. Through exploring the history of education for parenthood for a post-graduate degree in the 1980’s, she first discovered Charlotte Mason via the Parents’ Review, listed in the vast hand-written catalogues in the former round Reading Room of the British Museum, where the Founder of the PNEU had studied for her Geographical Readers, around 100 years earlier! Margaret met with Essex Cholmondeley, Charlotte’s first reluctant biographer, at Nynehead in 1983. Finally retiring in 2008, she resolved to research Charlotte Mason’s secret family history in preparation for a new, more accurate biography. Although there is no substitute for visiting the relevant places, significant discoveries have come to light via the Internet and records offices, due to widespread interest in ancestry. The joy of this longstanding research has been the making of many new friends.
PLENARY 1 Charlotte Mason and her Hidden Quaker Heritage.
Following up wide-ranging discussions with PNEU people during the 1980’s and 1990’s, explorations in Dublin, Birkenhead, Liverpool, Carlow, Waterford, Lisburn and Bangor in Wales as well as at Ambleside revealed that Joshua Mason (1780-1859), a birthright member of the Religious Society of Friends and father of 12 was Charlotte’s father, by Margaret Shaw (1818-1858), a Catholic. In exploring Joshua Mason’s life and work during the 62 years before his thirteenth child was born, we now know that his grandfather, John Gough and great-uncle James, who spent much of their lives teaching in Friends’ Schools in Ireland and England, as well as travelling in ministry, were born to Quaker parents in Kendal, eleven miles from Ambleside. It is pleasing to reflect that, by finally settling in Ambleside in 1892, Charlotte Mason was unwittingly returning near to where her great, great, grandparents, John and Mary Gough had lived, at the turn of the eighteenth century.
Q. Why do you think Charlotte concealed her family background from everyone she knew? Do we have the right to open up her hidden past?
Session 2: Charlotte Mason’s Early Experiences of Education.
From about 1854 until 1859, Charlotte Mason was apprenticed as a pupil-teacher at the Holy Trinity National School for Girls and Infants in Birkenhead. Winning a Queen’s Scholarship at Christmas 1859, Charlotte Mason was accepted for Pestalozzian training as an elementary school teacher, at the Home and Colonial Infant School Society’s Training College, in the Gray’s Inn Road, London. Obliged to leave at Lady Day, March 25th 1861, she was appointed Mistress of the William Davison Infantine School in Worthing, Sussex, where she remained until December 1873.
Q. What do you think were the effects of Charlotte’s early educational experiences on her educational ideas, lifestyle and work?
© Margaret Coombs 2012