Monday, September 26, 2016

“Married-Teacher Rule”

First page of results from the 1952 annual report of the
Massachusetts department of Education
Did you know that in the 19th century through the mid-20th century cities and towns throughout the United States, and even elsewhere in the world, had rules in place that prevented married women from holding permanent teaching positions? Such a rule seems very strange today, however the practice was pretty common and Massachusetts was no exception.  The general belief was that such full-time employment caused married women to neglect their responsibilities as homemakers.  This of course caused high turnover rates in the school systems as many female teachers were forced to submit their resignations once they married.

The Massachusetts Department of Education attempted to gather data on which cities and towns in the Commonwealth were still enforcing the “Married-Teacher Rule” by sending questionnaires out to all of the municipalities.  The Department’s 1950 and 1952 annual reports include their findings, and while many localities still officially had the rule on the books, by 1951 a great number of school systems noted that they had either suspended or no longer observed it.  One of the largest factors effecting the suspension or laxity of the rule was World War II and subsequent shortages of teachers in certain parts of the state.

One particular note regarding the city of Northampton in the 1952 annual report reads:  “Up to the time the questionnaire was sent out, Northampton did not appoint married women as permanent teachers, but there was to be a referendum on the city ballot this past November.”  The year 1951 ended up being a turning point for the city of Northampton:  chapter 653 of the acts of 1951 allowed the city to “ascertain the will of the voters” via a ballot question regarding “married women teachers being employed on a permanent basis and with the same tenure rights as single women teachers in the public schools.”  The result of the referendum on the November ballot was overwhelmingly in favor of the married teachers.

Links to the full reports with results:
1950 report:
1952 report:

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department