Strict Rules Teachers Had to Follow in the 1800s

Many changes over the decades of what was considered proper behavior. This especially applied to the teachers of youngsters in the 1800s, plus the problems they had to deal with.

Teachers in the cities had many students who were immigrants, and didn’t speak English or were still trying to learn the language and American customs. In the rural areas, children were needed on the farm or ranch especially during certain times of the year, so they missed school.

For teachers of the 1800s, there was even a contract they agreed to of their duties and behavior. If a teacher were to do anything at all outside the confines of what the principal or superintendent thought was moral that employment and teaching license could be revoked immediately. Men were most of the teachers before 1850. Afterward, then ladies were most of the teachers.

Some of the rules in their teaching contracts included: ladies had to be unmarried and be pure of character.

They had to do all the janitor work at the schoolroom. That included cleaning the outhouses daily.

Ladies’ dresses and skirts could not expose the ankles.

Men had to wear a collar and necktie.

Neither men or ladies could go to public dance halls, or a pool hall.

Female teachers were forbidden to join any feminist movement groups such as the Suffragettes.

Ladies had to be in their homes between 8 pm and 6 am. They were forbidden to ride in a carriage with a man unless he was her father or brother.

Pay about the turn of the 20th century in some areas was about $38 a month. A pay raise only came if the teacher who performs his labor faithfully and without fault for five years would be given an increase of twenty-five cents per week in his pay, providing the Board of Education approves.

Teachers could not no smoke, drink, no dyeing of their hair or cutting it short, as well as never showing one’s ankles or keeping company with a man (unless he was escorting you to church) or reading the Sunday paper on your day off.

A hard life, but one that many ladies found to be able to support themselves. That is one reason it was mostly females as teachers. See if you had ancestors who were teachers, not just in the 1800s, check if they were in the 1910s through the 1960s. Yes, there were some strict requirements for teachers during those decades.

Photos: Teacher in One-room schoolhouse; teachers of 1890s; a 1900 teacher and Male teacher with students in 1910.

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School Life


Ancestors in School

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