Het Vlaamse kantonderwijs in de 20e eeuw: tussen modernisatie en traditie

Translated title of the contribution: The Flemish lace education in the 20th century: between modernisation and tradition

Elena Vanden Abeele, Wendy Wiertz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During the 19th century, the renowned Belgian lace industry declined sharply. In order for the lace industry to survive, the already meagre wages of the lacemakers were reduced even further. That way, the women had to produce more pieces for the same small salary, which had a negative impact on the quality of their pieces and on their living and working conditions. The wretched state of the lace industry and its workers caused concern. From the second half of the 19th century onwards, studies, statistics and novels indicated causes and offered solutions. Most stressed the importance of reforming the lace education, which would lead to a revival of the Belgian lace industry and to an improvement of the lacemakers’ living and working conditions. Local and national philanthropic associations implemented the proposed solutions to reverse the downward spiral. In the long run, their actions did not save the Belgian lace industry, which disappeared for good in the 20th century. Nevertheless, several lace schools, all located in Flanders, remained open until the early 1970s, but there has been hardly any research into the regional lace education during the 20th century.
This article examines the introduction of the proposed improvements in lace education and their long-term effects in the 20th century. The lace school of the Sisters Paulinen in Poperinge serves as a case study. As a Catholic institution in a smaller production centre, the school is representative for most other lace schools in Flanders, while its period of existence between 1913 and 1961 corresponds to the definitive decline of the national lace industry. Moreover, the many newly-uncovered archival sources and the preserved lace piece allow an in-depth analysis of the institution, the results of which will be relevant to folklore, social history, gender studies and the history of education.
Translated title of the contributionThe Flemish lace education in the 20th century: between modernisation and tradition
Original languageDutch
Pages (from-to)381-401
Number of pages20
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


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