London: Hamilton Adams & Co., 1836. First edition. Original green publisher's cloth binding with title to spine. Spine sunned and a gently rolled; some splitting to the cloth at the extremities of the spine. Yellow endpapers. Hinges a bit tender but sound. With the exception of some smudging to pages 198-199, the text block is clean and neat. Measures 101 x 165mm. Collating viii, 220 pages: complete. OCLC reports that this educational guide has become quite scarce, with 9 institutional copies overall, only 2 of those being in the U.S. Currently it is the only copy on the market.
The Mother's Practical Guide seeks to address a problematic gap in childhood education, from infancy til about the age of five, when children typically began school. In encouraging mothers to take charge of this period, when "the human mind is like a sheet of white paper, ready to receive any impressions that we may wish to make upon it," Mrs. Bakewell puts women in an incredibly powerful position. She lays on them both the responsibility and the authority to shape England's future citizens through "the acquirement of languages, mathematics, and accomplishments" as well as "those religious precepts which must be enforced." To do this, a mother herself would need to have an understanding of these topics; and Mrs. Bakewell urges "that parents should converse much with each other, and also with any pious and intelligent parents associate" to pool together their knowledge and calculate the best methods for training up their families in advance of formal schooling. Ultimately, though, it is the mother who has power. "It is much to be regretted that, in general, so little regard is paid either by parents or by children to the dignity of the maternal relation" -- a position that Bakewell wants to return to its appropriate status. "The mother cannot sink into insignificance; whether she wills it or not she is always either directly or indirectly contributing to the welfare of her children. Her words, her actions, the tone of her voice, the expression of her countenance all have a powerful influence in forming the youthful mind...Every judicious, thinking mother is necessarily somewhat both of a philosopher and a metaphysician...she must have some knowledge in each department." In the chapters that compose the book, Bakewell lays out advice from the time of pregnancy, through the child's infancy and entrance to early childhood. Notably, this advice is both for the care of the mother's physical and intellectual health as well as that of the child she'll raise. Medical knowledge, nutrition, and exercise should not solely be for the child but the mother as well. In the development of language skills, Bakewell advises "Miss Edgeworth's excellent chapter on reading," in order to teach pronunciation, syllables, spelling, and finally reading. This can be followed up with "The Child's First Tales by Rev. Wm. Carus Wilson [and] Miss Edgeworth's Early Lessons." As children age, Bakewell recommends a series of books in the arts and natural sciences, including "Sketches of Natural History by Mary Howitt." Bakewell's guide, wherever possible, recommends educational books by women. And by positioning women as educators in the home, she gives them access to their own expanded educations as well. (Item #2912)