The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992 Page: 418

Southwestern Hzstorical Quarterly

proving Burnett's thesis is limited. We can see Burnett struggling for revelation
in a number of instances; about her subjects' marriages she says, based on
Jeffrey instead of her primary sources, "almost certainly they married for love"
(p. 13). Similarly, her discussion of childbearing, potentially the most danger-
ous recurring event in the life of a frontier woman, is a two-paragraph statis-
tical summary.
Burnett makes a convincing and significant argument, however, that these
women's later lives reveal a propensity and a talent for economic self-support
that is more representative of women in this time and place than has previously
been believed true. This important thesis deserves more detailed and analytical
examination, and her sources would be better marshalled in its service.
Texas State Historical Assoczation NANCY BAKER JONES
Hzll Country Teacher: Oral Hzstories from the One-Room School and Beyond. By Di-
anne Manning. (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990. Pp. xxii+ 191. Ac-
knowledgments, introduction, conclusion, bibliography, index, illustra-
tions. $19.95.)
Hzll Country Teacher, the oral histories of eight retired Texas school teachers,
all of whom began their careers in one-room rural schools in the Texas Hill
Country, was conceived to document the restrictions that women faced in pur-
suing one of the only careers open to them before World War II. While tinged
with nostalgia, the interviews give far from a romantic view. The women are
universal in their reason for entering the profession: teaching was about the
only career a woman could pursue. As one teacher, Knowles Witcher Teel, put
it: "A long time ago, people said, 'Why did you become a teacher?' Well, that
was about the only decent thing when I was growing up for a girl to be" (p. 39).
Equally outspoken about the chores they were expected to do and the facili-
ties where they taught, these teachers paint a vivid picture of life in rural Texas.
"We had to do our own [school] housecleaning," says Knowles Witcher Teel,
"carry the wood, build the fire, take out the ashes, and get fresh water for our
school room. It was in a one-gallon bucket, which often had spit balls floating
around when you went for a drink" (p. 49). Elizabeth Shelton describes the lack
of sanitary facilities at her Medina County school in 1922: "What was so bad
about going to the restroom, they had to go to the bushes. Boys on the right,
girls on the left. The kids didn't want to go. Out in the cold and no place to go. I
didn't either. No wonder I had a kidney infection!" (p. 95) And the contracts!
In addition to forbidding marriage and dancing, Sibyl Sutherland's contract to
teach on the Divide included clauses that "I wouldn't wear nail polish or star-
tling makeup" (p. 11).
Dianne Manning's book is most effective when the teachers speak for them-
selves and is a valuable addition to documenting a rural educational system that
was common until the consolidation of many of these schools after the passage
of major educational reform legislation in Texas in 1949. Each interview is ac-
companied by a summary, which I found distracting, and by pictures of the
interviewees now and early in their teaching careers. Unfortunately, the Texas


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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992, periodical, 1992; Austin, Texas. ( accessed April 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Texas State Historical Association.