As most of you know, Brenda Novak’s Charity Auction concluded recently. The reason I bring it up is that I happened to stumble upon a jewel that I found interesting and took an active role in the bidding (so much fun)! I love true-life stories that are told quickly, just a few pages each. To my delight I ended up winning, Frontier Teachers, Stories of Heroic women of the Old West, written by Chris Enss.
I haven’t read all the accounts yet but I have read some and skimmed the whole133 pages. It’s a must for all who write teachers of the West. Tucked in the back is a table of rules for teachers of 1872. It’s hysterical, in a charming, sort of innocent way. I’d like to paraphrase a few of the “stipulations” of the teaching profession of that day….
Teachers were required each day to fill their lamps and clean chimneys, bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal—a reasonable requirement if the teacher was well off enough to afford it. After the ten-hour a day job, one was allowed their remaining time (how much you ask?) to read the Bible or other good book. Women teachers were dismissed if they married, while men were given one evening each week for courting, or, if they were a church going fellow, two—Double standard? You think? Your integrity and honesty were scrutinized if you smoked, used liquor in ANY form, frequented pool or public halls, or—get this—got shaved in a barber shop! What in Pete’s name?
Now, here is, I think, some good advice: Each teacher was advised to put away a large chunk of their pay—that is after buying a scuttle of coal five days a week to heat the school room—for their declining years so as not to be a burden. Sounds like a forerunner to social security—and we all know how that ends.
And finally, if you faithfully followed these rules and the Board of Education approved you, you might be eligible for a twenty-five cent a week raise.
Before finding this list, I held teachers in very high esteem. Without them, and their generosity and dedication to their vocation, it would have taken much longer for the West to arrive academically. But now, knowing more fully what their day-to-day routine was like, I’m truly in awe. Such enthusiasm and commitment are what heroes are made of, as the title of the book suggests.
Do you have any western teaching stories to share? Or are there any teachers in your family history?
In celebration of my debut release, Where the Wind Blows, a Lonesome Dove meets Little House on the Prairie story, I’m giving away a copy to someone who leaves me a comment.
Also, please visit my website at www.carolinefyffe.com to see how to enter my contest, Under a Western Sky, for your chance to win an overnight stay in a bunkhouse. Come on, it’ll be fun! And, while you’re there, take a minute to sign up for my announcement-only newsletter. On the last day of every month I will be giving away a free book!