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A finishing school is a school for young people, mostly women, that focuses on teaching social graces and upper class cultural norms as a preparation for entry into society. The name reflects that it follows on from ordinary school and is intended to complete the education, with classes primarily on deportment and etiquette, with academic subjects secondary. It may consist of an intensive course, or a one-year programme. In the United States it is sometimes called a charm school. In Tsarist Russia it was known as the Institute for Noblewomen.
Switzerland was known for its private finishing schools, such as Institut Alpin Videmanette (now closed), which Diana, Princess of Wales attended; Mon Fertile, where the Duchess of Cornwall was partly educated; Institut Le Mesnil, which Queen Anne-Marie of Greece attended; and Institut Château Beau-Cedre, which closed in 2002. The finishing schools that made Switzerland renowned for such institutions were Brillantmont International School founded in 1882, now an international high school and Château Mont-Choisi, founded in 1885, which closed in 1995 or 1996. A Swiss finishing school that still exists thanks to a constantly updated curriculum is Institut Villa Pierrefeu, in Glion which was founded in 1954.
In the United States
Originally, US finishing schools combined some academics with education in the social graces. Miss Porter's School for instance was founded in 1843 as Miss Porter's Finishing School for Young Ladies--even though it offered a classical curriculum; now it emphasizes academics exclusively. The term finishing school is occasionally used, or misused, in American parlance to refer to certain small women's colleges, primarily on the East Coast, known for preparing their female students for marriage.
Since the 1960s, many of these schools have closed as a result of financial difficulties stemming from changing societal norms making it easier for women to pursue academic and professional paths not open to previous generations.
- Joan Perkin (1 January 1995). Victorian Women. New York University Press. pp. 27–28. ISBN 978-0-8147-6625-5.
- "finishing school". Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia. TheFreeDictionary.com. Retrieved 2009-05-04.
- "finishing school". Online Dictionary. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2009-05-04.
- "Flashback Photo: Miss Porter's School Finishes Socialites, Scholars and a First Lady - New England Historical Society". New England Historical Society. February 15, 2015. Retrieved March 31, 2015.
- Increased opportunities for women reduce need for single sex schools
- Christina Mazza (March 4, 2015). "Sweet Briar College to close: Are women's colleges still relevant? (+video) - CSMonitor.com". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved March 16, 2015.
- Darlene Superville (June 1, 2001). "US Women’s Colleges Hit Hard". Bangor Daily News. Retrieved March 16, 2015.
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