Adventures of a schoolteacher (and giveaway)

Renee Ann Smith —  December 10, 2011 — 74 Comments

There’s something about the contrast of a cultured young woman displaced in a rough frontier setting and successfully forging a new life for herself that stirs my imagination. Think Ma Ingalls making a home for her girls in the Little House books; Abbie setting a joyful example for her family with a Lantern in Her Hand; or Katherine Mary following her Canadian mounty through the pages of  Mrs. Mike.

Then add Elsie Hayes, from Barbara Anne Waite’s Adventures of an Arizona Schoolteacher, 1913-1916. This charming book shares a portion of the life story of Barbara’s grandmother through her grandmother’s letters and diary entries, plus additional  narrative  from interviews, recollections by Elsie’s former students, and newspaper accounts.

Elsie hailed from a privileged family in Long Beach, California, (where she was friends with a young Thornton Wilder) and graduated from Pamona College. But after graduation, while other girls her age were looking for husbands at plays and weekend house parties, Elsie was off  in wild and wooly Arizona teaching school in a one-room schoolhouse. The experiences and descriptions she shares are guaranteed to take you on a delightful trip back in time. For example, here are the 1913 rules for schoolteachers such as Elsie:

  • Teachers are not to keep company with men.
  • Women may not dye their hair.
  • Two petticoats must be worn.
  • Teachers may not loiter downtown in ice cream stores.
  • Dresses must be no more than two inches above the ankle.
  • Teachers are not to dress in bright colors.

And this is how Elsie described the frontier mining town of Jerome, which struck such fear in her heart upon her arrival: “I never imagined such a town. It looks like New York slums turned loose on a hillside and like Spain and Italy and almost like Chinatown combined. The mountainside is bare and bleak and the houses are . . . mysterious looking. One goes into a house from a dirty sidewalk and muddy street . . . The dirty saloons are surrounded by groups of foreigners who stare.”

Fortunately, Jerome was not her final destination. Elsie’s Oak Creek Schoolhouse—though itself a bit of an eyesore—was in the lovely Verde Valley, surrounded by thick groves of trees at the foot of the breathtaking Black Hills. Once settled there, Elsie thrilled to the beauty of her surroundings and the challenges of teaching her young pupils. Her words, though penned a hundred years ago, shine with a youthful enthusiasm and spirit of innocence.

I enjoyed experiencing Elsie’s adventures with her—her train rides, first days in the classroom, life among the country folks, and poignant experiences with love and romance. Her story touched my heart and kept me turning pages.

Gift Idea Alert: This would be a great gift for teachers, history lovers, or historical fiction lovers. The cover is eye-catching, and other authentic photos are scattered throughout its pages. You can order a copy from Amazon at this link and have it by Christmas! (It’s also eligible for free super saver shipping.)

Barbara and Curt

About the author: Originally from California, Barbara Anne Waite and her husband Curt have been in Antigua at Radio Lighthouse since 1974.

You can learn more at her website or by connecting with her on Facebook and Twitter.

***Many thanks to Barbara for sending me a copy of her book to review!

Giveaway Time: This is my first December Giveaway Post! I’m sharing a $10 Amazon Gift Card with one blog reader at the end of the month. (It’s an email card so I can send it anywhere you are!) All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below. Bonus Entries: Sign up for my newsletter at this link, let me know in your comment, and I’ll add your name two more times. (Or, if you should happen to buy Barbara’s book after reading this, let me know, and I’ll add your name to the drawing five more times!)

Renee Ann Smith

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I teach literature in a Christian high school by day and write inspirational fiction by night. I love to share heart-touching quotes and stories here on my blog. So glad you stopped by!

74 responses to Adventures of a schoolteacher (and giveaway)

  1. Merry Christmas, this looks like a great story and I would love to read Elsie’s story, thanks for sharing.
    I signed up for newsletter today.
    Thanks Paula O

  2. This is a fascinating sounding book. I’m a homeschool mom. I’d love to be entered.

  3. I signed up for the newsletter and well I’d also like to enter this contest. 😀

  4. This is really interesting. I’ve always found the pioneer stories where the woman is cultured and the husband is longing to move West fascinating.

    I’m also signing up for your newsletter.

  5. Thank you for sharing about the book – it sounds very interesting! I’m not sure if I qualify for the giveaway though, since I’m in the UK.

  6. Thanks for the giveaway.

  7. This book sounds right up my alley. So does the giveaway 🙂 Thank you for the offer.

  8. Brittany Shubinsky December 10, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    Sounds like a great rainy day book!!!

  9. Sounds like a great read! Please enter me. I signed up for the newsletter as well!

  10. Sounds like a wonderful book. Thanks! Donna

  11. This book is going on my amazon wish list! I love historical books like this one and am looking forward to reading it!

  12. The Adventures of An Arizona Schoolteacher, 1913-1916 sounds like a great book, even more so since it is nonfiction. I admire adventuresome women.
    Thanks also for giving away an Amazon gift card. It would be fun to win.
    Merry Christmas!

  13. Mmmm good old American historical fiction. It’s so hard to find one that’s written during a pre-WWII time period. Very cool!

  14. Thanks so much Renee. Really appreciate all you shared. Dani, Elsie is actually not historical fiction but taken right from her descriptive letters written home and journals from 1913-1916.
    I keep adding tidbits regarding “Elsie” on my website.

  15. This is priceless, Renee Ann! Just my kind of read:) I had to chuckle at the “rules” – oh my, have times changed… Being a teacher, I know you love this book! Also love the pic of them posing in white dresses. Thanks for another stellar post. BTW, I’m almost finished with the Rankin book you shared here some time ago. A great read that has taught me so much about the Underground Railroad, etc. I’ll add this one to my list!

  16. Thanks for the giveaway and for opening it to worldwide entries.

    Much appreciated.

    I subscribe to your emails.

    The book sounds like a very interesting read, so please enter me.

    Carol T

  17. Thank you for the giveaway!

  18. Sound like a great read would love to be entered:)

  19. Would love to be entered! this sounds such a different kind of book.

  20. My how times have changed. My daughter is a new elementary teacher, and it is still a challenge in todays times, but for different reasons!

  21. Thank you for the chance!

  22. As a retired teacher (30 years), this book is right up my alley. I just added it to my to be read list!


  23. I’ve often wondered where the frontier towns got their teachers. And to imagine one that came from such priviledge. I’d love to win this book.

    clenna at aol dot com

  24. New visitor and now a new subscriber. I love your website!
    Elsie looks like a fascinating read. We take so much for granted these days – education, women’s freedom, transportation, etc. were very different back in Elsie’s day. I’ll have to look more closely at the book since I have two teachers on my Christmas list!
    Please include me in the giveaway.

  25. As a teacher I’m putting this book on to read list, thanks

  26. wow, would love to win! And very interesting post, thanks for sharing!

  27. Thanks!! would love to win! 🙂

  28. Thanks for sharing!

  29. This sounds like an interesting read. I love historical fiction. Thanks for sharing. Merry Christmas. P.S. I wanted to sing up for your newsletter, but I keep getting “Page cannot be displayed” when I click on Suscribe.

  30. I would love reading this book. My favorite reads are usual historical fiction. I loved this era. Thanks for the great review and I will look into reading this one.
    Blessings to you for a fun read and keep on enjoying the moments of this Christmas Season. Thanks also for visiting my blog.

  31. This looks great! Pioneer stories are my favorite.

  32. Thanks for sharing! This looks like a very interesting and enjoyable book. Is the newsletter mentioned above something new? I tried signing up for it, but says I’m already a part of the list. I get emails from you for these blogs/reviews, etc., but I wasn’t sure if the newsletter is something additional?
    I hope you’re having a great December so far! 🙂

    • The newsletter is something new that I want to start next year. It would be periodic news about what’s happening with my book and things. But if you signed up to receive email reminders when I post something new, you’re on it! So before I begin the newsletters, I’ll give people a “warning” in case they don’t want to be signed up for the post reminders . . . Anyway, thanks for your support, Helene! Wishing you many Christmas blessings!

  33. Hey there,

    This looks great. I’ve also signed up for your newsletter!

    Preet @ A Written Rhapsody

  34. I am following the blog hop and followed you via GFC as masugr. Hope you can stop by and follow me as well!

  35. sounds like a great book! 🙂

  36. merry christmas 😉

    thanks for the chance to read this this story

  37. Honestly, I just came to enter the giveaway I saw on Goodreads, but now I’m adding this book to my to-read list after reading your review! One of my all-time favorite books is Catherine Marshall’s Christy, so this sounds like it’d be a great read!

  38. Malvina Beatrice December 16, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Count me in and the book sounds interesting.

  39. New to your site. I’d like to enter the giveaway and I signed up for your newsletter. Thanks.

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