Women have long dominated the teaching profession, so to celebrate Women’s History Month, we look back at the history of Saskatchewan women teachers from 1900 to the present day.
- Senior grades and administrative positions were reserved for men while teaching young children was seen as an extension of mothering, often at half the male salary.
- In the early part of the 20th century most female teachers were single. Teaching was often viewed as a transitional stage between leaving home and marriage. Women were expected to resign from teaching upon pregnancy and assume the unpaid responsibilities of domestic labour associated with being a farmer’s wife and a mother.
- Living conditions for young teachers were often deplorable and the teacherages in rural areas were lonely and isolated from the communities. Many women teachers found themselves living with local families. Without having the choice with whom they boarded, because accommodation was chosen by the school board, these young teachers were expected to contribute to the life of the farm family, performing tasks such as food preparation, housework or minding young children.
- It was often argued that pay should not be equal because men had families to support whereas single women did not. However, regardless of whether men had dependants to support or not, they still enjoyed a higher salary than women, even though a high number of women handed their cheques over to their families.
- Two main reasons why women were drawn towards the teaching career in the early 20th century was the short training period and a desperate need to provide financially for themselves and their families.
Minnie McMaster (1909) reminisces:
“Teaching seemed to be such an honourable profession, you know. And of course it was economic too … my Father was just a labourer at times and he came from Ireland and my Father and Mother had nine children and times weren’t good. And I wanted to help, in fact, I just had to help. When I got my cheque I just handed it over to my Mother and she got the use of it.”