1872: Elise (Charbonneau) Bouchard’s classroom duties

Fourth in a series about the younger sister of my French-Canadian ancestor Laurent Charbonneau, who emigrated from Québec to New York State around 1852.

In the last post, we learned that by 1871 my widowed great, great grandaunt Elise (Charbonneau) Bouchard had become a schoolteacher to support herself and her daughter, Eliza — and that they lived together at the schoolhouse.

Schoolhouse in Grosee-Ile, Quebec. Credit: Dept. of Public Works / Library and Archives Canada
Schoolhouse in Grosse-Ile, Quebec (1909). In 1871, My great, great grandaunt Elise (Charbonneau) Bouchard was a primary school teacher in St.-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec — in a schoolhouse that was probably much like this one. Credit: Dept. of Public Works / Library and Archives Canada

I wondered about Elise’s day-to-day life as a primary schoolteacher, and my research led me to A One Room Schoolhouse, a wonderful website that details schoolhouse facts from Canada’s Ottowa Valley and beyond.

Schools in Québec, with its majority francophone population, evolved differently from those in the rest of Canada — their complex history beyond the scope of this blog.

However, the daily tasks of schoolteacher Elise (Charbonneau) Bouchard probably included some of the following duties from A One Room Schoolhouse blog:

Rules for Teachers in 1872

  1. Teachers each day will fill lamps, clean chimneys.

  2. Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the day’s session.

  3. Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs to the individual taste of the pupils.

  4. Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly.

  5. After ten hours in school, the teacher may spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books.

  6. Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.

  7. Every teacher should lay aside from each pay a goodly sum of his earnings for his benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden on society.

  8. Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity and honesty.

Note: The teacher who performs his labour faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of twenty-five cents per week in his pay, providing the Board of Education approves.

“Women teachers who marry…will be dismissed.”

Whittling pen nibs? Cleaning chimneys? Toting water and coal? No mere eraser banging for these teachers in the 1870s!

Of interest in Elise’s case is rule No. 6, which states in part, “Women teachers who marry…will be dismissed.” Although she was previously married, being a widow was apparently not an impediment to Elise working as a schoolteacher — even while raising a daughter.

But what would happen if she were to re-marry? Would she lose her job? Was the teaching profession only for young, single women to work in for a few years before starting families of their own — or for widows who no longer had a husband to help with household income?

Or were educational authorities flexible in their approach to these rules — perhaps applying them selectively based on the need for teachers and the ability of women (single or married) to fill this vital job for the benefit of the communities where they lived?

Either way, Elise (Charbonneau) Bouchard was soon to find out — because in 1872 she began a new life with a second husband and a large, blended family.

More on this in the next post.

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