Selected Moments of the 20th Century

A work in progress edited by Daniel Schugurensky
Department of Adult Education and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)


Rules for Female Teachers


Disclaimer: please see editor's note at the end of the contract



1) You will not keep company with men

2) You will not marry during the term of contract.

3) You must be home between hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.

4) You must not loiter downtown in any of the ice cream stores.

5) You may not travel beyond the city limits unless you have the permission of the chairman of the board.

6) You may not ride in a carriage or automobile with any man unless it be your father or your brother.

7) You may not smoke cigarettes.

8) You may not dress in bright colors, and you may not under any circumstances dye your hair.

9) You must wear at least two petticoats, and your dresses may not be shorter than 2 inches above your ankles.

10) You must keep the school neat and clean, sweep the floor at least once daily, and scrub the floor at least once a week with hot, soapy water.

11) You must clean the blackboards once a day, and start the fire at 7 a.m. so the room will be warm at 8 a.m.


(2003, January). Rules for 1915 Female Teachers (Reprinted from The Nebraska Farmer, September 1999). NSEA VOICE, p. 1.



Editor's note (July 2003):

Although I have seen different versions of this contract since the 1980s, I was reluctant to post it on this website because I have never seen the source from which it was cited. Finally, I saw it cited in the January 2003 newsletter of the Nebraska State Education Association (see citation above). This association is, according to its website, "a member-directed union of professional educators dedicated to providing quality education for the students of Nebraska." Then, I decided to post the 1915 rules on this website.

However, there is not yet absolute certainty about the authenticity of this document. It still may be the case, as some have suggested, that this is an urban myth made up in the 1970s. Please read this contract with this disclaimer in mind.  If you find any proof of the historical existence of this document, please let me know and I will be happy to include such information on this page.


PS (October 2004):

Since I posted this disclaimer, I was referred to two related documents that bear many similarities with the 1915 rules. The first was a contract described by Willard Waller in the book Sociology of Teaching (1932), which in turn was taken from T. Minihan's article, "The teacher goes job-hunting," published in The Nation, 1927, volume 124, pg 606. I want to express my gratitude to Professor Mary Kennedy (Michigan State University) for calling my attention to this document.

The second was a list of housekeeping and cleaning instructions to Canadian rural teachers, printed in 1941 by the British Columbia Department of Education. I want to thank Tracy Ollenberger and Brigitte Bjornson (Malaspina University-College) for transcribing it.


PS 2 (October 2008):

More evidence to support that the rules really existed has arrived to my desk. On October 18, 2008, I received this message from a woman born in 1923 named Martha Reuter who remembers seeing these rules in the 1930s:

"My granddaughter is considering a teaching career.  She is studying the history of teaching as a college course.  I told her of some old rules I had seen many years ago.  Incidentally I was born in 1923.  I remember seeing a copy of these rules probably in the 1930s in a small town in Missouri, Buffalo, and the ones you published on your website are pretty much the way I remember them.  I certainly remember when female teachers could not get married. Thanks for printing the "rules".  I know my granddaughter will get a "kick" reading them." Martha Reuter, Missouri, USA

Thank you Martha!


PS 3 (July 2010):

Another document that has many similarities with the 1915 rules is a "Contrato de Maestras" (Contract for Female Teachers) that was used in Castilla La Mancha, a region of Spain, in 1923. The contract was published in the first issue of Revista Interdisciplinaria de Bioética (June 2010), in a section called "documento antiguo".

Daniel Schugurensky, 2010

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