Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Back-to-School with Miss Gumm
In honour of the first day of school, I've invited Miss Adele Gumm, from Cherryville Kansas, 1873.
Miss Gumm, better known to readers as Marly Landers' Aunt Adele, is oft referred to but never appears in Under A Texas Star.
Welcome, Miss Gumm.
Humph! That ungrateful girl has put you up to this, hasn't she? I rescue her from a renegade reb. I put a roof over her head and food in her belly. I teach her to read and write and do sums - I even let her learn history and bookkeeping with the boys - since she had no aptitude for needlework.
Boys and girls have a different curriculum in your school?
In every school! When I started teaching, girls and boys were in different classrooms - if not different schools. That was in the city of course. In a one-room country school, the best I can do is have the girls on one side and the boys on the other. Both learn reading, writing and sums, but the boys learn skills that will help them take care of their accounts or go into business - maybe go to college if their folks can afford it. Girls learn what they need to take care of a home and children.
Whatever her faults, Marly was a quick learner. Except for the needlework, she could handle all the lessons I gave. She was good with the younger children too. I was training her up to take over for me as teacher. No fear of that happening now.
Do you miss Marly?
Humph! She was useful enough when I could get her to work, I suppose. Give her the chance and she'd disappear. Took to hanging about the Sheriff's office when she was younger. Sweeping floors, sorting wanted posters when she should be sweeping the schoolroom floor and cleaning the slates for me. Though, fair is fair, she took her turn at those chores too.
It wasn't seemly, a young girl hanging about a bachelor like Langtree. Not saying he would have taken advantage but I know from experience how easy it is to have your head turned by an experienced man.
What experience is that, Miss Gumm?
None of your beeswax! You keep your prying beak to yourself.
The rules that a teacher has to follow are pretty strict, aren't they? You can't marry or keep company with men. You can't dress in bright colours...
That all depends on your school board, doesn't it? And whether you're a man or woman.
Men are expected to court, so long as the girl is respectable, because a man is considered more respectable if he's married. A woman is expected to leave her profession if she marries so she can get down to making babies and the like.
The school I started in did its best to fill their female teacher's time with chores and Bible study. They didn't want to lose us to marriage. One whiff of impropriety and you were out.
Here, they're just glad to have a teacher. There are plenty of rules, of course, but no one is going to check up and see if I'm in bed by sundown or chide me if I smoke a pipe now and then. As for bright colours... those days are past me now.
Are you smarter than an 8th Grader circa 1900? Find out here.