School Rules

Our local paper, the Elk Rapids News, ran these rules for female teachers in its September 6 edition. They were found in the History Center of Traverse City. Some of them immediately spark my ire, but there is hope. Our country has come such a long way in a few decades. I hope for increased freedom for those in other parts of the world, and can hardly be blamed for thinking it will occur in less than 100 years with free-er countries like ours as a beacon. We certainly don’t get everything right, but as I said – there is hope!

Rules for Teachers (Women) 1908-1909

  1. You will not marry during the term of your contract.
  2. You are not to keep company with men.
  3. You must be home between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  4. You may not loiter down town in ice cream stores.
  5. You may not travel beyond the city limit unless you have permission from the School Board.
  6. You may not ride in a carriage or automobile with a man, unless he is your father or brother.
  7. You may not smoke cigarettes.
  8. You may not dress in bright colors.
  9. You may under no circumstances dye your hair.
  10. You must wear at least two petticoats.
  11. Your dress must be no shorter than 2 inches above the ankle.
  12. You must keep the school room neat and clean, must sweep the floor at least once daily, scrub the floor at least once a week with hot soapy water; clean the blackboards at least once a day; and start the fire by 7 a.m. so the classroom will be warm by 8 a.m.

8 thoughts on “School Rules

  1. They couldn’t loiter in ice cream stores? Could they EAT an ice cream cone? LOL–made me think about our small K-6 school and what it must have been like for the teachers back then.

    • Isn’t it impressive how much things have changed in such a short period of time? I know that not all changes are for the best, but when I see things like this I think of how far we’ve come. How very sad about the ice cream though 😉 Us Michiganders sure do love it!

  2. Oh my! I had no idea the evils of an ice cream parlor, and we certainly would not want students to think that a woman might spend time with a man, much less marry one! Were they afraid the teacher would escape – never return – if she went out of the city limits? It is hard to imagine living with limitations like these!

    • It is, isn’t it? I was reminded of your commentary regarding ladies not smoking and being arm decorations when I read these. I was offended and amused and grateful all at the same time. Those rules were obviously written my men, so who knows what they were thinking 😉

    • You are absolutely right – we’ve crossed a chasm, but there are others. I feel like we’ve got a pretty good handle on and recognize most cases of sexism. We have pretty far to go with respect to religious intolerance.

  3. Ha! I am an elementary school teacher and this cracks me up. I am grateful I live today… that no-loitering-in-ice-cream-parlors rule would have me fired in no time! 😉

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