The School Ma’am


My great-grandmother Francina Smith had a literary bent.  She wrote occasional poetry on traditional Victorian themes—death, religion, and the like.  She also, however, wrote some flowery, but witty letters in response to items she read in the Saturday Evening Post.  These letters were not published in  the Post, but in more local papers, including the Toledo Blade (still in existence) which was widely circulated in Kansas.  She had been a school teacher in a one-room schoolhouse and relates her experience:

Written for the Saturday Evening Post

You Dear, Darling Old Post:

I love you more than ever—if that is possible—since I find we are permitted to come to you with our troubles.  And as Uncle Aaron would say, “I accordingly avail myself of the opportunity.”

I know it must be dreadful to be a “Reminder” and be “mistooken” for all sorts of people; I infer from Observation that it is inconvenient to be ”too little;” I have no doubt that it is discouraging to be “too big”; and to be “too thick,” or “too thin”—like sorghum molasses—may not be blissful; but I am persuaded that not one of my dear sisters (“in distress”) who have written so pathetically of their several grievances ever taught “deestrict” school and “boarded round.”

I have.

I say it not with an air of boasting, but rather with an humble and contrite spirit. Teaching may be, as some learned person has remarked, “a high and mighty calling.”  But when it comes to “boarding round,” it’s calling rather frequently, and on all manner of people.”

Just think of being circulated through a whole neighborhood like an interesting pamphlet, or an itinerant brass kettle.  To have no abiding place.  To go Jones’s tonight, and get black looks and receive admonitory hints in reference to keeping “our Johnny” in at recess.”   And have to sleep alone in a lonesome room at the end of the porch.  Couldn’t complain last night, however, as my bed was in Brown’s family room, and I had two of the children for bedfellows. One night to be chilled in Smith’s barnlike chamber, and feel little icy imps scampering up and down your back, until you think it would.be pleasant to be roasted alive a la wild “Injun,” but change your mind next night when Mrs. Green undertakes it in her little bed-room with a big fire and a mountain of bed-clothes.

To be regaled on every known edible from pot-pie to “water-million preserves.”  Variety may be the spice of life, but one cannot be expected to subsist on spice.

And when you alight, as you frequently will, at a congenial fireside, you dare not spend more than the allotted time, or it will be reported that you are “struck” with the “hired hand,” or, the hopeful heir to the said fireside, so you can only “take up your staff and travel on.”

And when your own real loves comes over to see how you are prospering, and to bring the last “Post” and “Lady’s Friend,” and a letter from Sis, and —well, on consideration I presume the foregoing will be considered sufficient excuse for his coming, so I need not reveal anything further.  But, to have all of the old ladies catechizing you concerning him; and the little boys making remarks about his having eye-brows on his upper lip; all of which you must bear with smiling composure.  You know why.  There is nothing under the sun a poor “lone, lorn” woman in the country can do but teach school (or get married) and she must be very meek and conciliatory if she gets to do that—which includes the phrase in parenthesis.

I might write much more—but if you are not yet convinced, there is a school “out on the pike,” [for] which you can secure an application, and have the opportunity of “trying it on” ”boarding around” and all.

“Walking for your supper,

Miles of up-hill road;

Whaling little urchins

With an oaken rule,

Bless me! Ain’t it pleasant,

Teaching district school.”

Anicnarf

[Francina spelled backwards]

 

 


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