Maud Clarke (b. 1887): Life and Labour Part Two – Teaching

Following on from one of my previous posts about the Life and Labour of Maud Clarke, I felt it only fitting to dedicate another blog post to her teaching career. One of the things that stuck out most to me about Maud’s autobiography was the loving way she wrote about her career path. She wrote about the positives, but also the negatives; about the lack of funding and the penalisation that women experienced when trying to become teachers or teaching assistants.

As spoken about previously, Maud begins her teaching career at the tender age of thirteen, where her head teacher realises that she has a flare for teaching: ‘one day, my headmistress called me to her desk and asked “would you like to be a teacher?” (Clarke, p. 34) In comparison to the present day, this is a very unconventional way to pursue a teaching career. From personal experience, having decided to go through with this career path myself, it is far from what is expected from you in the present day. Nowadays, you have to have an interview, take a literacy and numeracy test and graduate with a good degree, instead of simply having your head teacher offering you a job.

It all seemed a very sudden decision, and it was quite rapid: ‘The following Monday morning, duly armed with my essentials, I walked into the grand new school.’ (Clarke, p. 34) In my opinion this proves to her readers how sure she was that she wanted to teach for the rest of her life, as it seemed to be a very quick decision, yet it was one that paid off in the long term.

Importantly, she documents her first experience: ‘How well I remember that first day! The workmen were still in and all was confusion. The head was interviewing new pupils and there was only another monitor and one man and one woman teacher.’ (Clarke, p. 35) This is a prime example of just how newly developed the schools were. Although we do not know the school that she taught at, we can only assume that it was a very new one, perhaps one of the most modern ones in her area.

In conclusion to her teaching career, she left surprisingly young. It shocked me that she left so young to begin a family, as she really seemed to love it. Yet is presents to us the recurring theme that women did not have careers, because they wanted to start families instead, and this seemed more important to them. Yet for Maud, who sadly, did not return to her teaching career, did however have an influence over her daughters. She writes that her youngest daughter, Phyllis, had a school of her own, having been appointed head teacher at a very young and admirable age. Maud earned 15 shillings a week at the age of 18, whilst being in charge of a class of her own, and gave all of her money to her parents to help fund the education of her younger siblings.

It strikes me, reading her memoir now that she was an incredible person, who truly valued the impact of education, and always wanted to help others.

Works Cited:

  • Clarke, Maud. ‘Untitled.’ pp.67, Brunel University Library. (1978)
  • Gagnier, Regenia. ‘Working-Class Autobiography, Subjectivity, and Gender.’ Victorian Studies 30.3 (1987): 335-363
  • Gomersall, Meg. Working-Class Girls in Nineteenth-Century England: Life, Work and Schooling. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1997.
  • Rose, Jonathan, ‘Rereading the English Common Reader: A Preface to a History of Audiences.’ Journal of the History of Ideas. 53. 1 (1992): 47-70.

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