on the matter of setting an example…

Jan 24, 2012 | 4 comments

Teachers’ Institute 1885: Back Row- Sarah Brand, May Lilly, Emma Bailey, Lincoln L. Bush, Mrs. Canouse, and Rebecca “Puss” Brown. Center: Bessie Gillespie, Ola Gillespie, Mrs. Ada Brown Hicklin and son John, and Mollie Hutton; Front: T.B. English, Ella Tanger and Willie Mathews

     When I first came here to teach in 1978, I was told that it had only been a recent development that teachers were “allowed” to go into local taverns on their own time.  Coming, as I did, from a teaching position in California (noted in those years for its educational advancements), I could scarcely believe that was true.  It seemed right up there with the old-fashioned rules that precluded women teachers from being married – the one similar to this 1872 stipulation in an Iowa teacher’s contract: Teachers will not marry or keep company with a man friend during the week except as an escort to church services.”
       So, when I ran across a photograph labeled “First Teacher’s Institute 1885” that not only pictured one of the women with a young child, but listed another as “Mrs.” on the back, I was confused.  The teachers pictured are from Pacific County schools and, though I recognize several of the names, I don’t know which individual taught where.  Unfortunately, that information was not included.  But the photo seems to belie the “single teacher” rule unless, of course, the Mrs. label applied to a widow and the little boy and his mother were only visiting and were included for purposes of photographic composition.  Highly doubtful.
     Five years earlier, the County Superintendant of Schools had reported to her superior:  “It has been impossible with the materials available, and the extreme inconvenience of traveling in this county, to hold a Teachers’ Institute, but we are discussing the subject with a view to practical results, if possible at an early date…”
     The geographic logistics of the county with regard to the schools had apparently been an ongoing problem.  As early as 1879, there were twenty-four separate school districts in the county, and the Superintendant of Schools complained:  “The population of Pacific County is scattered over such a wide scope of country that it is impossible, with very few exceptions, for any great number of scholars to be accommodated in any one district, on account of the distance to be traveled in getting to and from school; consequently our schools are mostly small ones…”
     Assuming there were still two dozen districts in the county, it would seem that not every teacher attended the “First” institute in 1885.  Ten years later, though, attendance at the annual gathering was required – at least according to Bertha Allison who began teaching in Naselle in 1898.
     It’s always interesting to speculate about old photographs.  About the only thing I’m fairly sure of when I look at the teachers pictured in “First Teacher’s Institute 1885” is that none of them were frequenting the local drinking establishments. Make that ‘fairly sure’…


  1. Kathleen Shaw

    Could Mrs. Canouse and Mrs. Hicklin have been instructors at the institute itself? Perhaps that would account for their being married as well as being included in the photograph.

  2. sydney

    Great idea! I did a little more research and found that Ada Hicklin was, indeed, the County Superintendant from 1885 to 1888! I could not find anything further, however, about Mrs. Canouse. I also had the thought because of difficulties in obtaining teachers (Oysterville had great trouble getting and keeping qualified teachers in those days mostly because of our isolation) the rules in Pacific County might not have been as stringent as other in other places.

  3. Stephanie Frieze

    Were women in general allowed into taverns in those days? During my single-on-the-Peninsula days I ran with a teacher. When they had a Chippindales type act at the Sore Thumb, she parked her car in a different spot so parents wouldn’t know she was there and that was the ’80s.

    • sydney

      Just to clarify — my comment about taverns and teachers concerned the 1970s not the 1870s. Certainly women in Washington could go into taverns by then — but not the women teachers of the Ocean Beach School District, at least not local taverns, or so I was told. As for the 1870s and 1880s — I doubt that such sinful behavior would have even crossed the minds of the people drawing up the teacher contracts.


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