Maud Clarke (1887-1982): Education and Schooling – Part 2: Teaching

Few people know what career they want as children, but Maud Matilda Clarke (née Mills, 1887-1982) started her much loved teaching profession at just 13! As mentioned previously in my Education and Schooling – Part 1 post, Maud had been suggested as a teacher-pupil initially by the Governess of her Girls school in 1900. Her mother, Maria Mills (née Hughes, 1859-1937) was eager to take her out of school as Maud’s youngest sibling, Elsie, had just arrived and she would be most useful at home assisting with the childcare duties.

The process of convincing her mother to allow her to stay on at school to start her teacher-training began with an interview. Her parents were invited to meet with her headmistress (otherwise known as Governess) to discuss Maud staying on at her school in a teaching capacity. Evidently, Samuel Mills (1854-1930) and Maria had high hopes for their eldest daughter, and she was allowed to begin immediately.

Maud details her first responsibilities as a helper to the special-needs children as “there is little or no provision provided otherwise” (Clarke, 32). There is then a vague description of being a monitor for a short period whilst she was assessed for further candidacy.

What she doesn’t mention, but I discovered when researching her family tree, is that she moved away from home for a short period to complete the early stages of her teacher-training. From 1900 until she was 15, she was living over 100 miles away from her family in Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset. This absence from her parents and home-life must have been scary for her, which is perhaps why she chooses not to relive it through her memoir. As a pupil and boarder at Dunmarklyn Private School for Ladies, Maud had an introduction to her future career before she returned to Tipton to complete her training.

Monitors were typically young children who worked without pay in small classrooms (Clarke). Until the age of 18, when she could officially become a teacher, Maud worked at a “grand new school” (56) in a monitoring capacity earning very little, only allowed to assist the teachers there.

1901 census. Maud is the 15th pupil down.

In 1905, she was finally able to take the “Scholarship” government examination and, on passing, was responsible for a class of 50 children. However, the pay was still pitifully low at 75 pence a week. Maud would have to continue to study and take exams until she was fully qualified.

“For the next two years, I studied almost every evening, after teaching my 50 boys & girls for five days a week, in order to qualify as “A Certificated” teacher” (Clarke, 62)

For 2 years Maud spent what she described as “a gruelling time” (62) working and revising on repeat. She explains the risks of failing the exams or medical checks; candidates would be immediately rejected from completing their course: “This after studying for 2 years! At our own expense” (Clarke, 61).

Suffice to say, Maud’s hard work paid off and she successfully passed her examinations and continued her teaching role on £90 a year teaching 60 children. Her achievements are very impressive. By the age I am now, Maud had finished school, obtained a career and excelled in it to one of the highest paid roles for a woman at the time. She reflects that she could have gone further with her studies at college, but she was quite content with the position she held.

I was intrigued to learn that Maud felt particularly proud of herself for gaining status as a teacher. She writes that it was more important to her than being eligible for a Headship as she earned the same as a college trained woman, and she had come from working-class means.

Image 15 of Maud’s memoir. Beneath this photograph Maud writes: ‘1908 My class of eight-year olds[.] Notice the high boots & starched pinafores’.

Salaries were competitive in this profession; Maud found the occupation to have become crowded by the time she was fully qualified, with many women accepting lower wages in smaller roles whilst they waited for a better one to come along. Married women who wanted to teach were paid £26 less a year even with the same credentials.

This could go some way to explain why Maud left the profession in 1913 when she married her husband of 52 years, Nehemiah Clarke (1882-c.1965). Although it was regular for women to stop work when they married in this time period, Maud so loved her job that I half-expected her to stay regardless of the norm. Yet, as proud as she was of herself for her 13 year long teaching career, she had more pride in being able to rely on her husband’s income to keep her and her family. Still, it was “a great wrench to leave the children and the school” (Clarke, 64).


Clarke, Maud. ‘Untitled’. Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, 156, available at

‘Maud Clarke’ in John Burnett, David Vincent and David Mayall (eds) The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography1790-1945, 3 vols. (Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1987, 1989): 156

Burnett, John. Destiny Obscure. London: Allen Lane Penguin Books Ltd., 1982.

Purvis, June. Hard Lessons. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1989.

Savage, Mike. Social Class in the 21st Century. Milton Keynes: Penguin Random House UK, 2015.

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