Saskatchewan Women in Education: 1930s

Myrtle Strangways (c. 1960s)

The lean years of The Great Depression created a hostile climate for single women teachers.

Gladys Ekdahl (Bell) reminisces:

“My first teaching experience began March 1, 1932 in a rural school district named Nybo … My salary the first year was $700, which decreased to $500 as the drought continued. I was paid whenever cash was available….”

I.V. Pearl Morrison (Gough) reminisces:

“[My] application to Heward was accepted. There I taught grades 5-8 for five years with a salary of $1350, gradually reduced to $500 and a debt to me of $100 when I moved to Yellow Grass in 1934 to teach grades 6 and 8. Heward staff has been reduced to two members due to the depression.”
  • During a Saskatchewan Teachers’ Convention in 1938, one official from the Saskatchewan Department of Education blatantly suggested that the country’s problem with unemployment could be resolved easily if the “55,000 lady teachers in Canada were eliminated from their positions, making way for men who are now walking the streets.”
  • On January 1, 1934, the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation was formed with a much-anticipated objective of province-wide representation. Gail Stewart became STF’s first female Vice-President.
  • In 1935, Myrtle Strangways, a career teacher and STF’s second female Vice-President, became the STF representative on the Teachers’ Superannuation Commission. For over 20 years, 1935 to 1956, she played a leading role in the work of the STF to improve teachers’ pensions.
  • Formed in the 1930s, Women’s Publicity Committee actively encouraged women to take a greater role in their professional organization.
“Ladies of the teaching profession - it is your duty to stand up for your rightful place in the organization … Do you realize that of some forty-eight members in the Council for 1936 only four were women, outside of two others who were on the 1936 Executive?”
  • STF’s publication the Bulletin also included multiple columns that encouraged women’s participation in their professional organization. In the 1938 volume of The Bulletin, Eugène Thomas boldly stated that “It is strange but true that the majority of Saskatchewan teachers, namely the women teachers, apparently fail to realize their potential power. They fail to realize that with their help, active or passive, the education of this province would go further…than it is at the present moment.”
  • In 1937, Saskatchewan spent more on liquor than on teachers’ salaries and 51 percent of Canadian women teachers were paid less that year than the girls who bound the school books.