Category Archives: Women’s History

Back to School

Landaff Teacher 1941Hawaii Public Schools start today, so it seems appropriate to look at how school days have changed over the past one hundred years or so. For example, there is a popular list of Rules for Teachers dated 1915 that makes me wonder why anyone took up the profession. Note the assumption that teaching was a woman’s occupation.

Marchido_school_desks1. You will not marry during the term of your contract.

2. You are not to keep company with men.

3. You must be home between the hours of 8 PM and 6 AM unless attending a school function.

4. You may not loiter downtown in ice cream stores.

5. You may not travel beyond the city limits unless you have the permission of the chairman of the board.

6. You may not ride in a carriage or automobile with any man except your father or brother.


7. You may not smoke cigarettes.

8. You may not dress in bright colors.

9. You may under no circumstances dye your hair.

10. You must wear at least two petticoats.

11. Your dresses may not be any shorter than two inches above the ankles.

12. To keep the classroom neat and clean you must sweep the floor at least once a day, scrub the floor at least once a week with hot, soapy water, clean the blackboards at least once a day, and start the fire at 7 AM to have the school warm by 8 AM.

You may wonder if such rules really existed. I don’t know. But I knew a woman who taught in a country school before the second world war. She kept her engagement a secret because she would have lost her job.

Given cultural standards, I understand why teachers weren’t allowed to smoke, but I’ve no clue what was racy about the ice cream store.

The teacher photographed as she supervised a boy at the chalk board taught at the Landaff Blue School in New Hampshire in 1941. She boarded with the Chandler family for $7.50 per week, and received an annual salary of $800. By 1941 hemlines were shorter, and sensible shoes seem to be the norm.

Sewing ClassGirls were expected to conclude their education with marriage, and so trained in the new classes of home economics. I remember sewing class when I was in middle school. I never succeeded in making a proper bound button hole, nor in understanding why anyone would want one.

Typing ClassTyping classes gave girls a skill in case they had to be self-supporting. Now we call the skill keyboarding.

Lunchbox with ThermosPeople who went to school in the 1950s and 60s probably remember several items that now show up in cultural museums, among them the tin (later plastic) lunchboxes, each with a thermos. These came out every year with new Multiplication Slide Rulethemes. Slide rules were also common in the pre-calculator age. And when calculators first came out, it was considered cheating to use one.

Today, students still need pens and paper, backpacks and lunch bags. Teachers no longer have to stoke the fire, though they still sometimes clean the floor. And everyone can go to the ice cream store.



Landaff teacher. 1941. Public Domain.

Marchido School Desks by Doug Coldwell. Creative Commons Attribution.

Woman Smoking Cigarette by Raphael Kirchner. Public Domain.

Sewing Class. No Known Restriction.

Typing Class. No Known Restriction.

Lunchbox and Thermos by Davidmerkoski. Creative Commons Attribution.

Slide Rule by Jean-Jacques Milan. Creative Commons Attribution.

“15 Forgotten School Supplies.” Mental Floss.

“1872 Rules for Teachers.” Snopes. Dec 26, 2011.

“Rules for Teachers in 1872 and 1915.” Open Culture. Sept. 16, 2013.


SUMMER READS: Two Novels of Forgotten Women

THE HANDFASTED WIFE It’s 1065 and Edith Swanneck is worried, because “These days everyone talked of how important a church wedding was, a priest listening to vows exchanged in the church porch and then blessing the marriage.” [Handfasted Wife, Chapter 1] Edith Swanneck didn’t stand on the church porch with her husband Harold Godwinson. They… Continue Reading

SUMMER READS: Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton & Patsy Jefferson Randolph

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Summer will soon be upon us — the time of year when many of us will be seen in swim wear or, as it used to be called, bathing costumes. Summer wasn’t always synonymous with a seaside vacation. A convergence of factors in the mid-nineteenth century introduced the annual ritual to American life. Railways made… Continue Reading


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Wash Day Miracle

We don’t think much about washing clothes. Which is to say most of us don’t think it’s an enjoyable occupation. This is true whether we take our washing to the laundromat, or have the luxury of a home machine. For some bizarre reason, every time I use the washing machine, I think it’s some kind… Continue Reading

Washing Machine Leads to 1920s Scandal

This started out to be a blog about early labor saving devices, so I started researching washing “machines.” The machine on the left has a tub, agitator, and wringer. All improved the washing experience. As a term, “Washing Machines” wasn’t getting me what I wanted, so I entered “Wash Day,” which led me to a 1915… Continue Reading

RAMA’S LABYRINTH – Free Kindle Edition April 2-6

Wednesday, April 5th is Pandita Mary Ramabai’s saint’s day in the Church of England and Episcopal Church. In commemoration and as a special thank you, the Kindle edition of Rama’s Labyrinth is available at no charge until Thursday, April 6. WHO WAS MARY RAMA? Mary is Rama’s baptismal name. When Rama traveled to the Community… Continue Reading

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