Women's Work?: American Schoolteachers, 1650-1920

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University of Chicago Press, Apr 18, 2001 - Social Science - 192 pages
American schoolteaching is one of few occupations to have undergone a thorough gender shift yet previous explanations have neglected a key feature of the transition: its regional character. By the early 1800s, far higher proportions of women were teaching in the Northeast than in the South, and this regional difference was reproduced as settlers moved West before the Civil War. What explains the creation of these divergent regional arrangements in the East, their recreation in the West, and their eventual disappearance by the next century?

In Women's Work the authors blend newly available quantitative evidence with historical narrative to show that distinctive regional school structures and related cultural patterns account for the initial regional difference, while a growing recognition that women could handle the work after they temporarily replaced men during the Civil War helps explain this widespread shift to female teachers later in the century. Yet despite this shift, a significant gender gap in pay and positions remained. This book offers an original and thought-provoking account of a remarkable historical transition.

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The First Two Centuries
two South versus North
three Migrations
four Explaining Feminization
The Role of Gender

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Page 20 - ... advantage of the younger children, and a part in the winter months for the accommodation of those who are more advanced in age, and whose labour cannot be spared by their poor and industrious parents. The summer schools are taught by females ; and children of both sexes, of from four to ten years, attend, — females often much older. In these schools from twenty to forty, and sometimes twice that number of children, are taught reading, spelling, and English grammar by a single instructress....
Page 13 - Nathaniel B. Shurtleff (ed.), Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England (Boston: William White, 1854), III, 101.
Page 20 - But this requires so much mathematics, that even those, who acknowledge the justness of the principle, commonly content themselves to do less justice, and spare their heads the trouble of calculation. These appropriations are expended, a part in the summer months for the advantage of the younger children, and a part in the winter months for the accommodation of those, who are more advanced in age, and whose labor cannot be spared by their poor and industrious parents. The summer schools are taught...
Page 20 - ... taught, have a strong influence in forming the characters of the young. Although the progress in studies may be inconsiderable, yet they are important for the notions of order, decency, and good manners, which they inculcate ; and for the habits of attention and industry, which are there formed. The whole expense of a school of this kind, taught by a female, exclusive of the house, which in the country costs but a trifle, does not exceed from two to three dollars per week. For this very inconsiderable...

About the author (2001)

Joel Perlmann is a senior scholar at the Jerome Levy Economics Institute of Bard College and Levy Institute Research Professor at the College. He is the author of Ethnic Differences: Schooling and Social Structure among the Irish, Italians, and Blacks in an American City, 1880-1935.

Robert A. Margo is a professor of economics at Vanderbilt University and a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. He is the author, most recently, of Wages and Labor Markets in the United States, 1820-1860, published by the University of Chicago Press.

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