Home Collections Women At Work: Professional Labor Teachers

David J. Beach Collection
Mss 871 1775-1848 (1906)
Includes the account book of a teacher who worked in New Jersey between 1801 and 1805, as well as the 1890s household expenses of Mary A. Beach and the 1897 personal expenses of Ellen O. Walkley.

E. B. Chase Collection
Mss 77 1833-1860 C487
Includes credits to various women for making shirts, renting land, and for domestic labor, as well as accounts for Lyndon Academy, a school run by Henry and Ada Chase between 1861 and 1862.

Joseph Cobb/George Deake Collection
Mss 1 1755-1756, 1779-1788 C653
Accounts of an eighteenth-century teacher.

A. Lincoln Filene Collection
Mss 776 1921-1925
The papers of Boston department store President and civic leader A. Lincoln Filene (1865-1957) include correspondence on women's vocational education, some materials on saleswomen at Filene's department store, and correspondence and pamphlets on women active in educational reform.

Matilda Oliver Collection
Mss 8995 1833-1885 O48
Four volumes of personal accounts documenting the teaching and sewing endeavors of two sisters living in Boston, Massachusetts, between 1833 and 1885.

Paxton, Massachusetts, Town Records Collection
Mss 926 1827-1852 P342
Town accounts of Paxton, Massachusetts, include payments to support the town's poor, as well as payments to teachers.

Click for larger image
"The Teachers," engraving from Virginia Penny's 500 Employments Adapted to Women, Married or Single... (Philadelphia: John E. Potter and Company, 1870), p. 44.

There were very few professions that women could enter in the nineteenth century. Medicine and law required an education to which women often did not have access. However teaching, especially primary school children, was considered very appropriate for young single women.

Despite the numerous opportunities for women to teach in public schools, there was very little training available. Often merely completing the eighth grade was considered sufficient training for teaching.

The first public normal school (teachers' college) in the United States was founded in Lexington, Massachusetts, in 1839. However, it was not until the early twentieth century that one sees the professionalization of the teaching field. The lack of training often made the job frustrating and unpleasant, resulting in low retention rates.

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