Back on February 18 this blog published an article on Maria Ackley – School Teacher, which detailed the known activities of Maria before she married CTR. The article started in 1870 with the census returns that listed Maria as a teacher, alongside her older sister Selena, also a teacher. The newspapers from then on noted certain teaching positions, along with speaking activities and work in Sunday Schools, ending with a rather bizarre account of her being accused of using excessive discipline with a boy named Knorr – which provoked some inevitable comments.
This article is to cover her earlier years, and grateful thanks are due to correspondent Karen who has provided ALL the original research for this. (Really this is her article, not mine.)
The first known mention of Maria (other than as a child in census returns) is her schooling in 1865. This has been published on the blog before.
But then as a teenager (although I don’t think they had been invented back then) she received what appears to be her first teaching post. From the Pittsburgh Daily Commercial Newspaper, September 4, 1867 issue, page 4.
It says concerning nominations of the Local Board of the First ward…”Miss Bella Cunningham and Miss Maria Ackley were elected: to fill vacancies occasioned by the resignation of Miss Kate Patterson and Miss M. J. McClain, of the boys' first and second primary department. The nominations were confirmed."
It is interesting that it says she was elected, not moved from another location, which suggests this was her very first teaching post. She was 17.
As Pittsburgh was a boom town with a rapidly rising population there was a need for more schools and more teachers. The Normal School Act of 1857 established training schools for teachers. In Maria’s era there were two in Pittsburgh, the State Normal School at Central High and the privately run Curry Institute. The program concentrated on the 3 R’s – reading, writing and (a)rithmetric. After 1870 the training of teachers became longer and more specialized.
As explained in her testimony in Russell vs. Russell (1907) Maria trained at the Curry Institute. This had a very good reputation as was expressed in this extract from the Report of the Superintendent of Common Schools (published 1866 but relating to the year ending in June 1865). From page 42:
The previous page (page 41) showed that teacher examinations were held once a year, and ran over a three day period. Successful candidates could be granted either a provisional or professional certificate. The Superintendent’s Report for 1865 reviewed the potential intake that year in Pittsburgh. Forty sat the exam. Ten failed it. Out of the thirty who passed only ten were granted a full professional certificate, leaving twenty with provisional ones. The reason for the latter was explained in the report:
Maria would have sat the exam a little later than this particular report, but it is safe to say that she would have been granted a provisional certificate for her first teaching post at the age of 17. This meant that she was now classed as a teacher and would appear in the Pittsburgh directories as such. These directories published the names of all teachers in all the schools. In the 1868 directory we find Maria listed as a teacher in the First Ward School.
It is just possible that Maria may have appeared in the 1867 issue, but some pages are missing from the extant copy, so the 1868 reference is the first we have.
Maria continued to appear in the directory each year for the First Ward School until 1871. Thereafter the format of the directory changed and individual teachers were no longer listed for schools.
The 1865 superintendant’s report made the point that, after gaining sufficient experience, a teacher could move up from a provisional certificate to a full professional one, without having to sit the exam again. Maria obtained her full professional certificate in 1870, and details of this were published in the October 1870 issue of the Pennsylvania School Journal. She received certificate number 660.
Now that she was fully qualified by the standards of the day she was able to branch out, and her subsequent career (as detailed in the earlier article) shows her receiving various positions in different schools, until she was able to leave it all behind her on her marriage to CTR.