A governess is a largely obsolete term for a woman employed as a private tutor, who teaches and trains a child or children in their home. A governess often lives in the same residence as the children she is teaching. In contrast to a nanny, the primary role of a governess is teaching, rather than meeting the physical needs of children; hence a governess is usually in charge of school-aged children, rather than babies.[1]

In Rebecca Solomon's 1851 painting The Governess, the title figure (seated right, with her charge) exhibits the modest dress and deportment appropriate to her quasi-invisible role in the Victorian household.

The position of governess used to be common in affluent European families before the First World War, especially in the countryside where no suitable school existed nearby and when parents preferred to educate their children at home rather than send them away to boarding school for months at a time, and varied across time and countries. Governesses were usually in charge of girls and younger boys. When a boy was old enough, he left his governess for a tutor or a school.

Governesses are rarer now, except within large and wealthy households or royal families such as the Saudi royal family[2] and in remote regions such as outback Australia.[3] There has been a recent resurgence amongst wealthy families worldwide to employ governesses or full-time tutors. The reasons for this include personal security, the benefits of a tailored education, and the flexibility to travel or live in multiple locations.[4]

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