Teaching Jobs & Women

I think my mother, Virginia (Brown) Murray (1917-1982), would have loved to know and talk with her grandchildren. I am thinking of one of her grandchildren in particular who today is leaving one high school, in which she taught business courses and coached girls’ soccer, for a position in another high school. She never knew my mother, who was also a teacher.

In contrast to my successful niece, my mother was not successful in getting a permanent teaching position as a mathematics teacher when she graduated from college in 1937. The country was still amidst the Great Depression, jobs were scarce, and math teachers tended to coach boys’ athletics.

From family reports, it seems she would have preferred to work and earn money rather than attend college in 1933. She had received a university scholarship from “The University of the State of New York, the State Education Department” and entered in D’Youville College in Buffalo, NY. She graduated in 1937 at age 19 with a bachelors’ degree in mathematics. The college yearbook quote attached to her photograph reads: “They gazed and gazed and still the wonder grew, that one small head could carry all she knew.”

However, brilliance in college did not readily translate for her into a teaching job in mathematics. As the following letter illustrates, both the times and her gender worked against her.

Other than one temporary teaching position in the year immediately following her graduation, my mother never held a teaching position. She did manage to rear several teachers among her offspring and would have been extremely pleased with the success of her grandchildren, who currently carry on this family tradition.

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