From the late 19th century, Swiss “finishing schools” were highly sought after by the bourgeoisie and aristocracy of Europe and America. These international boarding schools for girls were dedicated to teaching a form of elite femininity based on travel, learning foreign languages, and the creative arts. By analysing the archives of the Private Education Bureau of the Vaud Canton, this article shows that the local finishing school sector was still in flux in the 1950s in terms of its clientele, school structures and recognition by the authorities. In the 1960s, bourgeois families and school directors no longer necessarily shared the same standards and practices, whereas such shared values had previously helped ensure and perpetuate the existence of these schools. This article endeavours to understand the steady decline in the importance of finishing schools for girls’ education over the period, in light of the transformations in the educational expectations of elite social circles.
Production of the elite in SwitzerlandBy Caroline Bertron