Saskatchewan Women in Education: 1940s

Emma Stewart (on right, c. 1949) answers mail with the aid of Grace Burtonwood.

As a result of World War II, the shortage of teachers provided married women with an opportunity to return to their teaching careers.

Gladys Menzies resumed teaching in 1949, 10 years after she married.

“I did not intend to teach after marriage but after our third child’s birth and before our fourth, the ‘Inspector’ or ‘Superintendent’ came asking me to teach or the school would close. I agreed.”
  • Minimum salary for teachers was legislated in 1940 after STF convinced thousands of teachers to sign an undertaking not to teach for less than $700 per year. For the first time, a statutory minimum for teachers became the law in Saskatchewan.
  • Bargaining by Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation led to teacher salaries based on experience and qualifications.

Superannuation Committee at work, 1950. Top left right: Bruce Wiggins, Chairman, G.D. Eamer, Caroline Robins, W.M. Perkins, Myrtle Strangways and Jack Mathers.


  • In 1940, the Unemployment Insurance Act introduced unemployment insurance in Canada, but it would be another 30 years before the Act provided provisions for maternity leave.
  • Emma Stewart joined the STF as Assistant Secretary (a position now called Associate Executive Director)
  • In 1945, Caroline Robins, whose teaching career began in 1922, was first elected as an STF councillor. Caroline then became a member of the Executive and served the STF as a member of the Teachers’ Superannuation Commission.
  • In 1946, women realized their greatest representation on the Executive with four of eight members being women. Dr. Ethel Brisbin (Coppinger) became the first woman to be elected to the position of STF President.
  • By the end of 1947, negotiated salaries became the norm in the province of Saskatchewan.


Delegates to the Canadian Teachers’ Federation’s annual general meeting pose seated at the Chateau Laurier, Ottawa, August of 1946. Seated at the head table is Dr. Ethel Brisbin (Coppinger).