Women’s Role in the Development of Manitoba’s Public Education System
Prior to 1870, in the area now known as Manitoba, education was delivered in a great variety of ways. Educated parents often took on the job of teaching their children the values and skills they would need to live in the world at that time. The Hudson’s Bay Company developed schools to teach the skills needed in the fur trade. As settlements developed, small schools grew up in them. Most of the teachers in these schools were men. As time passed, however, many young women who had received an education across the sea returned home to start schools. Miss Davis’ school on River Road was one of these schools. Many schools also were founded by religious groups in the community. Nuns of the Roman Catholic Church were very active in teaching at the Red River Settlement.

The territory became the province of Manitoba in 1870. The newly formed government created legislation to organize life in the province. By 1890, the government developed a public school system. Schools which existed at the time could choose to become part of the system or could opt to stay out of it. The schools which chose the latter option became private schools.

The development of the public school system created more jobs for teachers. More women were hired to teach in them. At that time, it was usual for women to be paid less than men for the same work. This situation continued for many, many years. In 1919, the Manitoba Teachers’ Federation (now the Manitoba Teachers’ Society) was founded. Winnipeg School Division, the first in the province, had its own teachers associations. From these groups came strong leadership to improve equity between men and women in school life. Women such as Aileen Garland, Margery Brooker, and Sybil Shack became strong advocates for this cause. Ruth Emsch did the same in rural Manitoba.

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