Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Women Teachers on the Frontier

Sometimes the problem is not so much locating a source, but knowing that such a source even exists in the first place! My son turned up Polly Welts Kaufman's Women Teachers on the Frontier (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984) in connection with his history project, but it's also an interesting kind of genealogy source. I didn't find it on Google Books or Internet Archive, but hard copies are available at reasonable prices on AbeBooks. And Worldcat shows many copies in Midwestern libraries, both public and college.

The book is not some simplified narrative, it's a publication directly derived from relatively little-known original sources, in this case records of the National Popular Education Board of the 1850s, residing largely in the Connecticut Historical Society -- diaries and letters of women teachers who seized the opportunity to go on their own to the frontier, earn a living, and help civilize and bring Protestantism to it.

Don't expect to find your New England or New York ancestress here (although that is possible). Do expect to find outsider accounts of the Midwestern frontier, especially in Indiana and Illinois -- and do also expect take into account their inevitable bias toward "uplift" and a certain brand of religion.

A similar source that I had already heard of and looked into are the letters from men in the American Home Missionary Society. For more information on them, you can start where I did, with John Beatty's article in the September 2007 issue of the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center's e-zine "Genealogy Gems."


Patti Hobbs said...

Thanks, Harold. Looks good.

Sheryl Trudgian Jones said...

It has arrived at my local library. I ordered it through Worldcat.com and can't wait to check it out.