Academic journal article Vitae Scholasticae

Teaching "Is a Pleasure to Me Almost Always": Continuities and Changes in Three Generations of a Teaching Family

Academic journal article Vitae Scholasticae

Teaching "Is a Pleasure to Me Almost Always": Continuities and Changes in Three Generations of a Teaching Family

Article excerpt

In 1931, Marjorie Caw begged her mother, Edith Hubbe,

Don't burn any old letters Mum, because all our family's letters are worth keeping and it isn't as if we lived in a flat and couldn't afford the room ... old letters are real and human so please don't burn. (1)

Edith did keep Marjorie's letters for most of the interwar years and many from other family members, including Marjorie's daughter, Virginia. Marjorie responded in kind so that the Hubbe-Caw letters contain intimate insights into Australian women teachers' lives and work. Using the Hubbe-Caw correspondence and associated sources, this article focuses on three generations of women teachers from the same family whose educational biographies stretch from the mid-nineteenth into the mid-twentieth century. They are Edith Hubbe (nee Cook), 1859-1942, who began her career as a pupil teacher in the fledgling state school system, became well known in the state of South Australia as a leader in the late nineteenth century movement for girls' academic secondary schooling and established a private school. Her daughter, Marjorie Caw (nee Hubbe), 1893-1993, focused on pre-school education as a Montessori kindergarten teacher before marrying a farmer and providing her children's elementary education at home in the state of Western Australia. Marjorie's daughter, Virginia Lee (nee Caw), 1925-2006, also trained as a kindergarten teacher, and taught in urban and rural kindergartens in Australia, and nursery schools in mid-twentieth century England. (2) Together, these women's teaching biographies encompass pre-school, elementary and secondary education, and home schooling as both paid and unpaid work.

Sherwood and Freshwater state that narrative educational biography "should provoke thought about educational issues and provide interest and value for readers through its description of particular aspects of an individual's life". (3) Firstly, Edith, Marjorie and Virginia's individual biographies provide insights into progressive educators' work, thereby complementing studies of women progressive educators in rural and urban contexts. (4) Secondly, intertwining their biographies makes this an important study of a teaching family across three generations, and facilitates discussion of continuity and change in women teachers' work. (5) Furthermore and at the macro-level, Edith, Marjorie and Virginia's teaching lives coincided with significant changes in Australian education, including legislation for mass compulsory schooling in 1875 and the free kindergarten movement in the early twentieth century. Likewise, there were complex shifts in women's lives and work. While marriage and motherhood remained hegemonic across the generations, women's citizenship and relationship to paid work changed over time. South Australian women won the suffrage in 1894, thereby legitimating their participation in the public sphere. At the same time however, married women were being marginalised from paid work by convention and legislation. Indeed, marriage bars were widely applied in the teaching profession from the late nineteenth century. How three generations of a teaching family negotiated changes in education and women's lives is integral to this educational biography.

This article derives from a larger project that explores the transnational career of a teacher educator, Lillian de Lissa (1885-1967), and the lives and work of her Australian and British graduates. (6) Drawing on a range of archival sources, the project explores de Lissa's and graduates' professional and domestic lives, leisure activities and civic participation from their initial work as novice teachers through diverse life paths (including marriage) to their senior years. (7) Marjorie Hubbe was one of de Lissa's Australian graduates and Edith and Virginia's careers also intersected with de Lissa's. This article provides the opportunity to explore their biographies together as a teaching family in more depth than the original project, articulating both shared experiences and differences in their lives and work. …

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