Welcome to the last installment in the education series. The last topic is all about teachers and will be broken into two parts.
Being a teacher was not always easy task, especially if you were a woman. The average salary for a teacher was about $485 by 1910. This average, however, was based on gender, teaching level, and religion. In 1900 the salary for a female teacher had started out at $600; for each additional years of experience, they would get $40 more. Male elementary teachers, however, started at the same base salary of $600 but received $150 more each year of experience. High school teachers, mainly males, received higher salaries than elementary school teachers while administrators made the most out of all of the school staff. Teachers wore simple, often homemade clothing to school. In the early 1900s, female teachers wore long skirts with petticoats and blouses with puffy sleeves. Sometimes they would wear jackets matching the skirts. They wore stockings and dark, ankle high lace-up shoes to complete the outfit. The male teachers wore suits with ties and dark, ankle high lace-up shoes with dress socks to match.
Teachers had very many rules to live by in the 1900’s. Most of the rules were designed for women to follow but men also had to follow the rules.
Here is the list of rules to follow.
- To keep the school room neat and clean, you must:
- Sweep the floor at least once daily
- Scrub the floor at least once a week with hot, soapy water
- Clean the blackboards at least once a day
- Start the fire at 7 AM so the room will be warm by 8 AM
2) You will not marry during the term of your contract.
3) You are not to keep company with men.
4) You must be home between the hours of 8 PM and 6AM unless attending a school function.
5) You may not loiter downtown in ice cream stores
6) You may not travel beyond the city limits unless you have the permission of the chairman of the board.
7) You may not ride in a carriage or automobile with any man unless he is your father or brother.
8) You may not smoke cigarettes.
9) You may not dress in bright colors.
10) You may under no circumstances dye your hair.
11) You must wear at least two petticoats.
12) Your dresses must not be any shorter than two inches above the ankle.
13) Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to church.
14) After ten hours in school, the teachers may spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books.
15) Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.
16) Every good teacher should lay aside from each pay a goodly sum of his earnings for his benefit during his declining years so that he will not be a burden on society.
17) Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity, and honesty.
18) The teacher who performs his labor faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of twenty-five cents per week in his pay, providing the Board of Education approves.
The reason for the rule against marriage is that it would normally be followed by pregnancy, and the farmers did not want a pregnant woman teaching their children. Also, the teacher would most likely be unable to finish the term if she were to become pregnant and it would be difficult to replace her. As for the other rules, the farmers felt it was improper for a teacher to behave that way, so they made rules prohibiting that type of conduct.
The farmers expected teachers to be models to hold up for their children. If they did not want their children to do certain activities, they would forbid these activities for the teacher. For example, the farmers did not want their children smoking, so they did not allow the teacher to smoke. They were also very careful to ensure that the teacher was respected. They did this by forbidding any actions that could call the teacher’s honor into question. For example, a female teacher spending too much time in the company of a man alone would call her honor into question and so was forbidden unless the man happened to be a male relative. The farmers wanted to avoid controversy, and they did so by instituting these rules.
The teacher had many duties. As well as teaching the students, she was responsible for the upkeep of the school. She was the school’s janitor. She had to sweep the floor every day after school and scrub it with hot, soapy water every week. She had to clean the chalkboards and erasers everyday as well. She also had to make sure that, during winter, the fire was started well before the students arrived. Many times, she gave these jobs to the older students.
She also had the responsibility of preparing for school events such as the popular Christmas pageant. She not only had to decide what to include in the program each year, she had to teach each student what his or her part was and decorate the building for it.
Teacher Living Accommodations
The living accommodations for teachers differed from district to district. Many times, the teacher would board with a local family until she was able to buy a house of her own (which was rare) or by marriage (which would disqualify her of teaching for the next term). Another possibility was that she only boarded with the family until she moved on to another district, which was a frequent practice.
A room added to the one-room schoolhouse could serve as living accommodations for the teacher. Occasionally school districts added this room to the schoolhouse itself rather than boarding teachers in the home of one of the farmers in the area. Being able to live in the school house was more convenient for teachers since they would not have to walk to school. They could just roll out of bed and prepare the school for the day.
Typical teacher ages
In 1890, nearly half of all teachers in the United States was 25 years old. By 1900, the typical teacher age had decreased to two fifths of 25 year olds.
Number of teachers by age in 1890
10-14 years old: 257
15-24 years old: 170,552
25-34 years old: 107,031
35-44 years old: 38,431
45-54 years old: 18,679
55-64 years old: 7,197
65 or older: 2,884
Number of teachers by age in 1900
10-14 years old: 157
15-24 years old: 188,577
25-34 years old: 150,325
35-44 years old: 58,466
45-54 years old: 24,611
55-64 years old: 10,543
65 or older: 3,807
Series by Haley Sjerven, Staff Member