Mathematics notebook of a 16 year old girl being educated in the 19th century
[Great Britain]: [c. 1850].
[Great Britain]: [c. 1850]. Comprised of 88 manuscript pages of mathematical definitions, tables, methods, and exercises in a single hand, with the ownership signature of "Caroline Waters Age 16 yrs" to the front endpaper. Marbled paper vernacular binding, measuring 8 x 12 inches and stitched at spine. Caroline's metric measurements and English currency reveal her to be a student somewhere in the UK. Though the commonness of her name and the absence of a specific date prevents us from locating her in genealogy records, the manuscript she left behind reveals much about how and why girls of her age and class were being taught arithmetic.
Caroline's elegant, practiced hand suggests that she is a member of the rising middle class, and the opening of the book suggests that she is a beginning to intermediate mathematician. At the top of the first page, she defines Arithmetic as "the art of computing by numbers" which "has five principal [sic] rules for this purpose, viz. Numeration, Subtraction, Addition, Multiplication, and Division." Using this definition, she divides her notebook into a section for each, providing a definition for that principle, plus clear-cut examples of its use in both Simple and Compound formats. Numeration, Subtraction, and Addition are grouped together at the front; and after these sections conclude, Caroline enters in Practical Questions in Compound Addition and Subtraction. These involve word problems involving the exchange of money and the calculation of wet and dry weights, cloth measurements, and time. She then mirrors this with Multiplication and Division, before adding sections on Decimal Fractions, more Practical Questions, and sections on Federal Money and Simple Interest.
The organization of the manuscript suggests that Caroline copied it out for continued reference, where sections are easy to locate and problems clearly illustrate each of the principles. And the emphasis in sample problems on currency conversion, monetary exchange, and banking implies that her family in some way wanted her to be aware of these concepts.
An exceptional and rich document, Caroline's notebook is a rich resource for study including but not limited to the history of women's education, middle class education, women's domestic use of mathematics, women in business, paleography, genealogy, gender studies. (Item #3448)