The Dewey Decimal System ~ Dedicated Student

College of Women, Cambridge – now called Girton College


In answer to @bumblepuppies’s prompt The Dewey Decimal System

This week’s challenge starts with a game.
First, select four numbers between zero and nine. If you like, you may choose two of a single number within this group of four.

Next, create three 3-digit numbers using your selections from the first step.

Next, visit this Dewey Decimal System website and find the subjects that match your three digit numbers. If one of your results turns up “not assigned or no longer used,” you may create a new 3-digit number to replace it from the original four you selected.

Some results will be broad categories (diseases) and some will be more specific (Bible). For any broad category you turn up, choose something specific within that category. Specific topics can be kept as-is.

This will leave you with three things that must be incorporated into your post this week. However, this should not be an exercise in one-mention-and-done. Elevate your three results to the level of setting, character, theme, or other major component in your post.

So here were my three numbers
1 9 4 – Modern Western philosophy France
8 1 4 – Essays
9 4 1 – General history of Europe British Isles
I guess I could have been less lucky since I studied #1 & #3 at in depth both in high school and university and #2 is a given when you go to college; but to come up with a story was an absolutely amazing challenge.
I know the result still needs work and editing but I hope the use of each 3 is noticeable and that I fulfilled the part of the challenge that was to use one or several of them as a set up.
It so happens that this also fulfills the Daily Post Prompt “We can all be taught“. If there’s one thing that the Pioneers in women’s education showed us, it’s that everyone can be taught even if women weren’t considered as persons but rather their father’s wards and then their husband’s property.


Charlotte penned the final period on the page with great satisfaction. She could not contain her smile, as she reverently lay it on the pile of written paper that rested on her secretary that the ink may dry. She placed her ink and quill in her writing case and laid back against her chair. Casting a quick glance around the room, she wondered how she would get used to not have the mess of books that had been her everyday life. Books scattered all about the floor and on her bed, her bookshelf emptied of its content. Plato’s Republic lay near Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War and a treaty by Michelangelo, while some reproductions of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man and other sketches were piled on her bed. The Encyclopedia volumes she had already gathered in a neat pile to return to her father’s library. But none of them were as important as the 500 pages that she had just finished.

So much rested with this essay: she hoped it would convince her professors to let her sit the Classical Tripos. She had worked so hard. Of course, it was a stretch. After all, only three women had been allowed to sit the Tripos, just the year before. They were Charlotte’s inspiration: pioneers who could pave the way for many more women to obtain a university degree. Yet, her essay could create controversy. The faculty might not consider her work worthy. She sighed: she mustn’t think this way. It was a strong essay and it fell under the college requirements.

“Charlotte?” Her father called from the door. She turned and smiled. She was so lucky that her father acquiesced when she begged him to let her obtain an education beyond what women usually got. He might have decided, as many other peers of the realm did, that the only future she had was to marry another noble and bear his children. Instead he’d given her five years to obtain her degree: not one more, he had been adamant about it. Past that time, she would be too old to marry. She had fulfilled his expectations; she’d only been there for 3 years and if they agreed she might graduate even before the 3rd year was over.
“Father.” She faced him.
“I take it you are finished.”
“I am.”
“So may I read it now?”
Charlotte bit her lip; she had discussed some of her work with the Marquess but giving him her manuscript would mean judgment. He was her father; she didn’t know whether she was ready for that. What if it changed how he viewed her and her character. She had given the essay a lot of thought and poured a lot of herself in it. She hadn’t accepted the status quo, had pushed boundaries. At least she thought she did. Yet, her father would be honest with her.
“If you would.”
He approached her secretary and turned the pile of paper, revealing the title of her essay. He raised an eyebrow; and in that expression she knew all the pride he felt.
“Why Classical Philosophy no longer Reflects the Reality of Modern Society: A Study of Montesquieu’s On The Spirit of the Laws. An essay by Charlotte Bennett.”
Her hands folded on her lap, she tried not to look up at her father.
“That is a bold choice Charlotte.”
“I know.” She whispered.
“You think you paid enough respect to Montesquieu’s work?”
“I believe I did.”
“Why did you choose his work? And not Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s?”
“Father,” she answered with a smile. He knew perfectly well why.
“Montesquieu established throughout The Spirit that democracy isn’t the better government but that our very own constitutional monarchy is what serves best the needs for liberty and security. Besides Rousseau’s view of our society is very narrow. Did he not say that “The people of England regards itself as free; but it is grossly mistaken; it is free only during the election of members of parliament. As soon as they are elected, slavery overtakes it, and it is nothing”* in his Social contract? How much more mistaken could he be? No father. He wasn’t the appropriate choice for such an essay.”
“Yet, he said that without law there can be no freedom…”
“So did Sir John Locke, Father, yet they don’t agree on how it can be achieved.”
“Montesquieu inspired the dissidents of our colonies.”
“True. Yet, he didn’t support their war of independence. And you can’t complain about the colonies Father… is it not how your grandfather made his fortune even more impressive?”

Her father’s booming laugh resounded in the room.
“Moments like this make me regret you aren’t a boy, my love. You would make me proud in Parliament.”
“Oh. I’m sorry father.” She knew he wanted a boy but she was the third daughter in a house without a son.
“Don’t be. I love you. And who knows? Maybe by the time I die, women will be allowed to inherit their father’s title… With women like you arguing for such a cause, we might have a female Prime Minister before this century is over.”
“Twenty-five years might not be enough yet.”
“Who knows, laws can be changed. And we are experiencing fundamental transformations already. Maybe it’s with you I should discuss my investments.”
“Well I hope you’ve invested in electricity father because this is the future. It would make such wonderful additions in the house and mother would have less work.”
“We can’t allow your mother to be idle.”
“And if you would care to purchase a type writer, which I’ve heard a lot of good about, it would make writing my essays a lot easier.”
The Marquess laughed again.
“Of course it would.” He gathered the pages in his arm and turned. He paused, as if he were considering. Charlotte knew better though. He was about to mention something she might not like. “Your mother and I will receive a fortnight from today.”
“The summer season will start at Mrs. Merryweather’s next week, will it not?”
“Yes. You are excused from that event as you will be writing your examination that day but your mother wouldn’t…”
“I know Father. I can’t ask Mother to forego the season entirely.”
“Yes… but.” Ah…
“She expects me to entertain the idea of a husband, does she not?”
“You will turn twenty-one in a few months Charlotte. Your sisters are married well; we can allow you to make a love match. But I would rather have you marry among the peerage.”
“And I would soon be too old. I thought we agreed on five years Father.”
He sighed.
“Yes we did. And I’m loathe to renege my word. But when a Duke and a Count come calling, one cannot really say no.”
“I see.”
She did; and she understood. She merely hoped that she would not be expected to give an answer before the season was over.
“I still will not impose a choice on you Charlotte.”
“But you would ask me to consider it.”

He kissed her brow before leaving her room. If she were honest with her father she would have answered that she was not at all interested in marrying. If there was one thing these three years at Cambridge College of Women had taught her, it was that she wanted to study more. She hoped to continue discovering the authors both from the classic and modern eras. She was fascinated by Benjamin Constant’s treaties on politics. She had procured Alexis de Tocqueville book on Democracy in America and she hoped to finish it before her examinations. So many ideas to read about, so many concepts to discover. Why could she not write a book herself? She knew of the three Bronte sisters who had published works under pen names. Would it be possible one day for a woman to pen a book under her own name?
Being a wife could only mean that she was expected to take care of the household and then carry children. She could never be a person in her own right. Was there no other path for her to tread? Was it what society would impose on women forever? Her father may be right: things were changing, but not nearly quickly enough for Charlotte to benefit from it. There would be many more battles to fight before women would no longer be their husband’s property, before they could vote or be elected. It probably wouldn’t happen before the turn of the century.

Sighing, Charlotte gathered her books and cleaned her room before meeting her parents for dinner. As always, her mother barely acknowledged her but she seemed happier than before. At least this year, she would be able to entertain with the certainty her daughter would have to consider suitors.


*Jean-Jacques Rousseau from The Social Contract


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