The role of Governess was perhaps the only respectable profession in the 1860s for a woman of the middle or upper working classes with education but without the means to support herself or a family to support her. Consequently, there were always women willing to work as governesses, despite the poor wages and difficult work. Cassell's Household Guide (1880s) describes governesses thus:
There is no class of female labourers whose vocation is generally so little appreciated, and respecting whose position in a family so many differences of opinion exist, as that of the resident governess. [...] Many well-informed people - liberal in other respects - seek to secure the constant supervision of their children in intellectual knowledge, health, and moral guidance, at a salary which they know it would be folly to offer as wages to any good cook or upper domestic servant. The deplorable part of this state of things is that situations of the kind, on the terms named, still find many candidates.