With Care and Deliberation: Prairie Teachers go to Work
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At the turn of the 20th century, people from select European countries were invited to homestead in the province of Saskatchewan, Canada. The provincial Department of Education had two goals: assimilating the children of these immigrants into Anglo-Saxon cultural traditions and sourcing teachers with the appropriate values to do so, however, they had very few ways of measuring how and if teachers were fulfilling their goals. This thesis examines a group of Saskatchewan women teachers who utilized the opportunity to write their life stories to establish themselves as dedicated, hardworking professionals. I explore how these women characterized their teaching practices as part of a larger enterprise of creating solid citizens. The thesis is centered around two research questions: (i) how did a particular group of Saskatchewan women teachers utilize their personal histories and supplementary documents to counter the ideal of male teacher? (ii) how did these women’s classroom practices and goals facilitate the process of “Canadianizing” rural immigrant students? I explore these questions through a combination of feminist historiography and narrative analysis as ways of studying women’s stories and ‘documents of life’ (Plummer, 2002, Stanley, 2013) and the socio-cultural contexts within which they were embedded, I argue that these teachers chose examples from their own lives to illustrate women as legitimate, serious, hardworking teachers. These women consciously participated in the Saskatchewan Department of Education’s project of Canadianizing immigrant children. Furthermore, as they were aware that they were responsible for imparting more than reading, writing and arithmetic they also sought to inculcate values and moral characteristics that they personal felt were important for these children to learn.