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Dayhoff: Vaccinations, married teachers, and contagious diseases were topics of concern for public school officials in the 1870s

“Vaccination In Public Schools” was the title of a public notice that appeared in a local newspaper on Aug. 14, 1872, reminding parents and schoolchildren that summer was about to come to an end and soon it would be time to hit the school books.

Dorothy Elderdice found the public notice in the Westminster newspaper, The Democratic Advocate, according to research for the Historical Society of Carroll County by historian Jay Graybeal. Elderdice was a local writer who was better remembered for “Her interest in … theater, costume, and pageantry,” wrote Graybeal in an article in the Carroll County Times on June 25, 2000.

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The women of the 1911 class of Western Maryland College are pictured during their junior year. According to historian Jay Graybeal, “In the early 1970s, [Elderdice] wrote about a series of newspaper articles about local history topics for the Historical Society; ‘A Look at Health Services Back Then,’ which described health conditions and care in the summer of 1872, in the Carroll County Times. Elderdice is in the center of this photograph from “Dorothy Elderdice – An Indomitable Spirit” by Dr. James E. Lightner for the winter 2014 edition of the Carroll History Journal, from the 1910 Western Maryland College yearbook, Aloha; courtesy of the McDaniel College archives.
The women of the 1911 class of Western Maryland College are pictured during their junior year. According to historian Jay Graybeal, “In the early 1970s, [Elderdice] wrote about a series of newspaper articles about local history topics for the Historical Society; ‘A Look at Health Services Back Then,’ which described health conditions and care in the summer of 1872, in the Carroll County Times. Elderdice is in the center of this photograph from “Dorothy Elderdice – An Indomitable Spirit” by Dr. James E. Lightner for the winter 2014 edition of the Carroll History Journal, from the 1910 Western Maryland College yearbook, Aloha; courtesy of the McDaniel College archives. (Kevin Dayhoff)

The public notice read: “At a meeting of the Board of County School Commissioners held on July 1st, 1872, the following resolution was adopted: Resolved that the Board will hold teachers responsible to the extent of a forfeiture of their certificate in the event that any pupil who has not been vaccinated shall introduce the disease of Small-pox into the public schools of this county. By order of the Board, J. M. Newson, Secy.”

Smallpox and the spread of communicable disease was very much on the minds of the school systems in Maryland in this era. In the Maryland Archives publication, The Archivist’s Bulldog, author Pat Melville wrote in REPORTS ON EDUCATION, 1869-1916: “In 1882-1883 many schools were closed for long periods of time because of the prevalence of contagious diseases, mostly smallpox and measles…”

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According to “Schoolbells and Slates,” by Joan Prall, in 1877, “all the commissioners, Reese, Hering, Zollickoffer, Prugh, and Dr. Reindollar, were present at the April meeting when it was decided that teachers’ salaries would not be diminished that spring term even if a lot of pupils were absent due to ‘contagious’ disease…

This illustration depicts a physician vaccinating the poor of New York City against smallpox in 1872 in a New York City police station. In 1863, mass production of the smallpox vaccine was developed, allowing for broad immunization of North American and European populations. Submitted photo courtesy U.S. National Library of Medicine
This illustration depicts a physician vaccinating the poor of New York City against smallpox in 1872 in a New York City police station. In 1863, mass production of the smallpox vaccine was developed, allowing for broad immunization of North American and European populations. Submitted photo courtesy U.S. National Library of Medicine (Kevin Dayhoff)

“Before August (1877) had ended the commissioners had decided to pay teachers $50 for their first 15 students, $2.50 more for each additional student up to 25, $1.50 for each additional student from 25 to 35, and $1 for each additional student over 35.”

Seven years earlier, on Aug. 7, 1865, “after a bill had been passed by the state to provide ‘a uniform system of Free Public School,’ the Board of School Commissioners of Carroll County was organized,” according to Prall.

In 1870, five years after the public school system in Carroll County formed, on Aug. 7, 1865; there were 86 male and 34 female teachers in Carroll County according to the “First Annual Report of the State Supt. of Public Instruction for the School Year ending September 30, 1870.”

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“By 1876 …,” according to Prall, “Teachers’ salaries totaled $29,776.46…” That was the total for all the teachers in Carroll County at the time. The total budget for the school system, in 1876, was $51,056.85.

“PTA Magazine,” published in 1915, according to Prall, “gave these rules for female teachers… No smoking of cigarettes, No loitering around ice cream stores. No dressing in bright colors… No marrying during the term of the contract. No going out between eight o’clock in the evening and six o’clock in the morning.”

Local historian Mary Ann Ashcroft notes in her research for the Historical Society of Carroll County, “Teaching has never been an easy profession and it certainly wasn’t in the nineteenth century. Salaries were meager (about $240 a year in 1894.)

“Teachers might arrange payment of the rent for their schools, provide fuel for the school stove, rent county-owned books to students, maintain discipline…, and instruct… Students too poor to rent textbooks could use a free one, provided the teacher filled out a permit. When teachers failed to submit enough permits to account for every book, the rent was deducted from their salaries.”

“In 1920,” according to research for the Historical Society by Graybeal, “Carroll County owned 125 school buildings and rented fourteen more… “Teaching the nearly 7500 students was a faculty of 208; 181 taught elementary school and 27 were high school teachers. The teaching profession in 1920 was by far an occupation for single women. Of the 158 female teachers working in the county, only nine were married…”

According to “A History of Public Education,” written by Jackie Zilliox for Southern Maryland magazine: in Maryland, in the 1860s “Teachers were required to be single; to attend to the students from 9 a.m. until about 4 p.m., or when the classroom was clear of students and cleaned for the next day… and to provide for or prepare lunch for the entire class.”

In 1920, according to research for the Historical Society by Jay Graybeal, Carroll County owned 125 school buildings and rented 14 more. According to historian Evelyn Brooks Howard, the folks in this 1920s photograph of Bark Hill School include: back row, from left: Herbet Willis, Joseph Smith, James Green, Herbet Brooks, Lucial Millberry, Rheba Smith, Rosia Willis, Catherine Green; middle: Ira Willis, Sterling Willis, Charles Davis, Alfred Hollingsworth, Marion Brooks, Gladys Green, Evelyn Brooks; front: Roland Brooks, teacher Andrew B. Grant, Elizabeth Willis, Catherine Brooks. Courtesy “Schoolbells and Slates,” by Joan Prall.
In 1920, according to research for the Historical Society by Jay Graybeal, Carroll County owned 125 school buildings and rented 14 more. According to historian Evelyn Brooks Howard, the folks in this 1920s photograph of Bark Hill School include: back row, from left: Herbet Willis, Joseph Smith, James Green, Herbet Brooks, Lucial Millberry, Rheba Smith, Rosia Willis, Catherine Green; middle: Ira Willis, Sterling Willis, Charles Davis, Alfred Hollingsworth, Marion Brooks, Gladys Green, Evelyn Brooks; front: Roland Brooks, teacher Andrew B. Grant, Elizabeth Willis, Catherine Brooks. Courtesy “Schoolbells and Slates,” by Joan Prall. (Kevin Dayhoff)

In Carroll County, Prall reports, “For the school year 1928-’29 the School Board adopted a resolution barring married women from teaching (except special cases.)”

“From Carroll County in 1887 came the following statement: ‘It is idle and ridiculous to boast that we have the lowest tax rate in the state, when at the same time we are obliged to close the schools to get funds for building and furnishing necessary schoolhouses,’” according to Melville in Reports on Education.

Hmmm…

The history of Carroll County Public Schools is a favorite topic of mine. Portions of this discussion have been published before; especially several articles in the Baltimore Sun in 2011.

To read more about Dorothy Elderdice, go to hsccmd.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/CHJ-V7-N1-Winter-2014.pdf.

To learn about other barrier breaking Carroll County women, go to hsccmd.org/breakingbarriersexhibit.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.

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