Monday, June 11, 2007

Teaching the Old School Way

On our trip to Minnesota, we approached the town of Worthington where we'd be meeting my aunt and uncle. As we drove to the 3rd exit on the west side, I became very excited when I looked down from the interstate and spotted a group of little buildings on the county fairgrounds. It looked like a small town taken straight from the past. The next sign advertised "Pioneer Village," and I asked if we could visit it sometime during the weekend. On Sunday afternoon, Mom and I were finally able to go, and we had a nice time going through the shops, church buildings, and homes that were set up by the local historical society. I'll try to post other pictures from Pioneer Village, but our experience at the one room schoolhouse was especially interesting to us.

Posted near the door was the following Teachers' Contract from 1923:

This is an agreement between Miss xx, teacher and the BOARD OF EDUCATION of the xxx school. Whereby Miss xx agrees to teach in the xxx School for a period of eight months, beginning Sept. 1, 1923. The Board of Education agreeds to pay Miss xx the sum of ($75.00) per month.

Miss xx agrees:
1. Not to get married. This contract becomes null and void immediately if the teacher marries.
2. Not to keep company with men.
3. Not to loiter downtown in ice cream stores.
4. To be home between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. unless in attendance at a school function.
5. Not to leave town at any time without permission of the board of trustees.
6. Not to smoke cigarettes. The contract becomes null and void immediately if the teacher is found smoking.
7. Not to drink beer, wine, or whiskey. This contract becomes null and void immediately if the teacher is found drinking beer, wine, or whiskey.
8. Not to ride in a carriage or automobile with any man except her brother or father.
9. Not to dress in bright colors.
10. Not to dye her hair.
11. To wear at least two petticoats.
12. Not to wear dresses more than two inches above the ankles.
13. To keep the school room clean:
a. To sweep the classroom floor at least once daily.
b. To scrub the classroom floor at least once weekly with hot water and soap.
c. To clean the blackboard at least once daily.
d. To start the fire at 7:00 so the room will be warm at 8:00 when the children arrive.
14. Not to use face powder, mascara or paint on the lips.

So, ladies and gentlemen, what do you think? I don't know about you, but I think I've already broken almost every rule.... except a few obvious ones. :)


lydia said...

This is very interesting. Like you, I've also broken several of the rules on the list. Some I think are kind of harsh, several very understandable, and several very funny. I think my favorite is #3. Although we don't have quite the ice cream stores I imagine were present in that day, I have been known to visit the ol' DQ from time to time...and sometimes when I get to talking with a good friend I'm there for several hours.

strem said...

Yes, #3 cracks me up... especially since they go out of their way to mention ice cream stores and not pool halls or the local "watering holes" (GASP!) Maybe those would be "givens."

I think it is also funny that they list 3 specific forms of alcohol... but not alcohol in general.

Times sure have changed!

Elizabeth said...

My, my, it's interesting that the teacher marrying (or putting herself in the postition of meeting someone to marry) is so abominable to the school board. I guess it is assumed she wouldn't work if she were a wife.

lydia said...

Elizabeth, I didn't even think that the school board might be assuming that she wouldn't work if she were a wife, but it makes sense. I just thought it was interesting. I'm glad you pointed this out to me. (I'm sure others probably realized this, but my brain doesn't quite work properly all the time.)

strem said...

While I was wondering about it, I'm glad that both of you confirmed what I was thinking about the married/working issue. I think it is especially interesting, however, about what Elizabeth points out: "Or putting herself in the position of meeting someone to marry" I never would have thought the rules in this area would be so strict... even though it would paramount for teachers to be good examples. It sounds like very traditional courting wouldn't even be allowed when in the company of family members. I wonder how strict the school boards were about those issues... Do you think they wanted their teachers to be spinsters? :) Do you think women had to make the conscious decision to stop teaching so they could even be considered for marriage?

lydia said...


I would imagine that the school board probably would want their teachers to be spinsters. From what I understand and remember about that time period, it was very rare, and probably frowned upon, that a man would be a school teacher. Thus I would be led to believe that the hope of the school board would be that the teacher would be a spinster. The rules listed would then be suitable to avoid any possibilities of marriage.

I also think that it was so that the teacher would have to make the decision to stop teaching in order to become eligible for marriage. It might have been that way so that the woman would be able to focus all her attention on becoming a help meet, and not have to also be concerned with teaching.

Dani said...

Not that this is much, but historically speaking...

3 is in place because that is where students would hang out and you aren't suppose to be cozy with the students you should be a disaplinarian.

The idea is that a woman might earn extra money before she marries to help her father's family or perhaps a dowery, but women working unless in some position with her husband's store (for example) would be unacceptable.

I am certainly glad that we have realized that working doesn't nessicarily mean that you cannot be a good wife and mother today. But these women sure must have been good role models, and that's who you want teaching your kids after all.

As for men, they are teachers, it's not taboo, however they can make loads more at any other job, and they are more likely to only take prep schools in larger areas, private tutors, or boys schools. Women would be more prevalent in rural areas as a result.

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