History Through Deaf Eyes – Women in the Classroom

” The gentlemen . . . who manage the pecuniary affairs of this Institution are only too glad to commit the management of these children and the incessant task of their education to the patient hands, the active tongues, and the conscientious fidelity of women.”
~ Franklin B. Sanborn, President of the Clarke Institution Northampton, Massachusetts

Following the Civil War, teaching came to be a predominantly female occupation for economic and cultural reasons. During and after the war, there were fewer male teachers, and as younger children began to attend school, many people simply believed that women made better teachers for very young students.

Gradually, women gained access to formal education and better qualifications for teaching jobs. At the time, women also had fewer opportunities to earn a living, and they could generally be hired for half the salary of men.

“In glancing at the teacher’s salaries . . . we noted . . . the great discrepancy between salaries of the teachers with regard to sex . . . In the name of all that is just and equitable, why is this so?”
~ Howard Glyndon, pen name for Laura Redden, Graduate of the Missouri School for the Deaf, journalist and poet

deaf children with teacher

CLARKE School for the Deaf / Center for Oral Education

Teacher practicing speech with a deaf student

This teacher and student at the Clarke School watch each other’s lips in a mirror during a speech lesson. Educators believed that women were better suited to providing oral training, which required painstaking, repetitive work in close contact with students.

The president of the New York Institution estimated in 1868 that with oral methods “more than double the number of teachers will be required.” All of the teachers at the Clarke School, from its founding in 1868 through 1904, were women.

CLARKE School for the Deaf / Center for Oral Education