Fall/automne 2003

“A Concession to Circumstances”: Nova Scotia’s “Unlimited Supply” of Women Teachers, 1870-1960

George Perry
School of Education, Acadia University
Published October 1, 2003
How to Cite
Perry, George. 2003. ““A Concession to Circumstances”: Nova Scotia’s ‘Unlimited Supply’ of Women Teachers, 1870-1960”. Historical Studies in Education / Revue d’histoire De l’éducation 15 (2), 327-60. https://doi.org/10.32316/hse/rhe.v15i2.458.


Many thousands of single rural women were hired as teachers in Nova Scotia between 1870 and 1960. Their qualifications and salaries were among the lowest in Canada. This article shows how their availability to teach, if only for a year or two, sustained and even made possible the survival of the province’s original school-section system of financing public education. Constrained by weak centralized municipal units, and by the politics and finances of 1,700 autonomous school sections, provincial education authorities made repeated “concessions” in the qualifications required of teachers. While the practice created what was described at the time as “an unlimited supply” of teachers, it reinforced gendered attitudes about teaching and undermined provincial attempts to raise teachers’ professional status.