The sisters went to Mrs. Cawley, their uncle's sister, to be educated in 1783. Cawley lived initially in Oxford, and later in Southampton, and, when an epidemic broke out in Southampton, the Austen sisters returned to Steventon. Between 1785 and 1786 the sisters attended the Reading Ladies boarding school in the Abbey gatehouse in Reading, Berkshire. Jane was originally not to go, as she was considered to be too young for schooling, but ended up going along with Cassandra. In their mother's words, "if Cassandra's head had been going to be cut off, Jane would have hers cut off too".
The two Austen girls were tutored at home in drawing and the piano. In 1791, Cassandra produced a series of circular illustrations of British monarchs for Jane's manuscript The History of England, which are noted to have resembled members of the Austen family more than royalty.
Cassandra Austen is also credited with having created two paintings of her sister. One, painted in 1804, is a back view of Jane seated by a tree. The other, an incomplete frontal portrait dated circa 1810, was described by a family member as being "hideously unlike" Jane Austen's real appearance. This sketch is now housed in the National Portrait Gallery, London.
George Austen, the father of Cassandra and Jane was not wealthy and had supplemented his income as a country parson "by taking in pupils and tutoring them for Oxford". After graduating from Oxford University, in 1794, one former pupil, Thomas Fowle, became engaged to Cassandra Austen. Fowle needed money to marry and went to the Caribbean with a military expedition as chaplain to his cousin, General Lord Craven. There, Fowle died of yellow fever in 1797. Austen inherited £1000 from him, which gave her a little financial independence but, like her sister, she never married. wiki/Cassandra_Austen Cassandra benefited from an annuity left in his will (she inherited Tom’s savings of £1000 which yielded about £50 per year.) cassandra-austen
After moving to Chawton Cottage, Cassandra and Mrs. Austen took over most of the duties of the house and garden, allowing Jane to capitalize on the most fruitful period of her writing. Without Cassandra’s physical, mental and emotional support, and her brothers’ contributions to their annual income, Jane would not have had the freedom to actively pursue her career as a writer.
The sisters’ letters are at the heart of what we know—and will never know—about the bond they shared.
Jane died in 1817 in Winchester with her head placed in Cassandra’s lap. Writing to her niece Fanny, Cassandra said: “I have lost a treasure, such a Sister, such a friend as never can be surpassed, - She was the sun of my life….I had not a thought concealed from her, and it is as if I had lost a part of myself” (Letter, July 20th 1817).
Cassandra was destined to long outlive her sister Jane. She continued on at Chawton with regular visits to her brothers, nieces and nephews. After Jane's death, Cassandra and Henry arranged the publication of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey and with those 1817 publications,
Most of what we know of Jane Austen today, we owe to her sister Cassandra. It was she who filled in gaps in her sister’s life for generations after, leaving an oral record to supplement the written. It was she who gave us the only two authenticated likenesses of her sister. It was she who, while she did destroy many of the letters, preserved the majority of her sister’s extensive writings and most importantly, it was she to whom the letters were written, without which we might never have known the human side of one of the world’s favorite authors. cassandra-austen
In 1827 Mrs. Cassandra Austen, the girls’ mother, died and was buried in the Chawton cemetery.