Last week, I started my newest novel--A Teacher for Christmas. Authors write about Christmas all year long. What seemed appropriate, though, was writing about school. August is the month when most children and teachers are thinking about the topic.
At the heart of this novel is a Wyoming town's desire to educate their children. In the past, I ran across research that indicated Wyoming, first the territory and then the state, placed a higher than normal emphasis on having a school in town so I began with that as my premise.
Here's the first few paragraphs from the story to show you what I mean:
Early November, 1889
Scrub Brush, Wyoming
“We need someone quickly!”
Voices rose, seconding that demand. Mayor Boswick Carter stood with his palms facing out, trying to calm the townspeople.
“Every last man here knows we don’t have money to go hirin’ a teacher. Not unless he’ll work for nickels and be willin’ to move from home to home each month.”
Then Boss—as he’d been nicknamed early on by his mother who hated the name her husband insisted on using--looked around the room. “That is, if y’all are willin’ to house him.”
Mutters and shrugs were his only response. From the back, a woman stood. A woman! Every one of those gentle critters knew to keep quiet in his meetings.
“Don’t have to be a him. Could be a woman teacher.”
The frustrated mayor sighed and returned to his seat. “Jack, control your woman.”
Jack Fuller rose to stand beside his wife, smoothing his sandy colored hair with a trembling hand. “Boss, this is my wife, not just some woman. And, she has a point.”
At his wife’s nudge, Jack added, “With the crops in, not too many months before the snow’ll keep us at home. We need a teacher to set the kids to lessons they can be doin’ all winter.”
Before Wyoming became a state, the legislature was forming an educational bill. Doctor Winthrop of Boston was hired to help the legislature plan out the educational bill. He was quoted as saying, "Wyoming can start at once an educational system that has taken Massachusetts and Wisconsin fifty years to formulate and perfect." (https://sites.rootsweb.com/~wytttp/history/bartlett/chapter27.htm)
Teachers attended a week of instruction at the Territorial Teachers Institute each year. This too shows the state's desire for good education. Instructors learned the latest methods there. By 1873, the state made sure to get some of the latest textbooks and readers to those teachers, also. That year, the legislature also made it a law that children ages 7-16 had to attend at least three months of school each year. They could be sure that many parents were teaching their children at home during the other months, I expect. With winters and the agricultural economy of Wyoming, that was the most they could demand the kids attend at that time.
Wyoming was far ahead in letting women vote and hold office, too. I've always thought I would enjoy living there. Sadly, I've never even seen Wyoming but the photos are appealing. I didn't know about the school plan, though, and am happy to have read your post.ReplyDelete