Feminism in Canadian Teaching during the Nineteenth Century

Essay by sperryUniversity, Bachelor'sA, November 2008

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The word feminism can be defined as "a philosophy advocating rights and opportunities for women which are equal to those that exist for men." Feminism has always been a part of history in Canada; it has meant different things to different people at different times. During the nineteenth century, women struggled to be recognizably equal to men; however this struggle led back to the main issue of gender. Gender is fundamental to the ways we interact with each other, to the ways our public and private lives are organized. Its importance is evident almost everywhere we look; from the wages men and women make, to the structuring of friendships, and the organization of domestic tasks. In the 1880s, gender labeling began when one was born and continued throughout life. "Boys were stereotyped in more powerful and active roles, where as little girls in elementary school played with dolls while their brothers played baseball; mothers wore aprons and baked cookies, while fathers drove off to work; adult women were princesses and witches, while men were doctors and farmers."

This gender labeling carried over into the labour industry, where women were treated unequally due to their sex. Teaching was one career where feminism was greatly present. During the 1880s when the first generation of women graduated from college, two-thirds of all those who sought employment became teachers. In the past women were constantly faced with gender beliefs in which they were separate and inferior to the male gender. Society saw women as naturally fitted to traits such as the care and teaching of children, leading to the idea of "separate spheres." The result of this ideology was the image of female teachers not being considered professional. Through examining historical documents, women's struggle for equal rights and recognition in the school system will...