An Iowa Schoolma'am

An Iowa Schoolma'am : Letters of Elizabeth "Bess" Corey, 1904-1908

4 (3 ratings by Goodreads)
Foreword by  , Edited by  , Edited by 

Free delivery worldwide

Available. Dispatched from the UK in 1 business day
When will my order arrive?


Readers everywhere fell for Elizabeth Corey, the irrepressible, independent, and fearless Bachelor Bess, whose letters home to Iowa gave us a firsthand account of her adventures on a South Dakota homestead from 1909 to 1919. Now, through the letters she wrote home between 1904 and 1908, readers can make the acquaintance of a younger Bess facing the realities of life in an Iowa country school system with energy, enthusiasm, and ambition. Sixteen-year-old Bess wrote her early letters when she was away from the family farm, trying to complete the ninth grade so she could become a teacher. That schooling was cut short in 1905, when her father died and she returned home to help her mother. Later that year, she received a provisional certificate allowing her to teach, which she did from 1905 to 1909 in a succession of rural schools across Shelby and Cass counties in Iowa. Initially a reluctant teacher, she had an infinite capacity for productive work that propelled her toward success in the classroom. A determinedly lighthearted attitude toward life, a talent for making congenial friends and for making herself at home as she boarded with one family after another, a relentless devotion to her own family, and a drive to communicate all combine to animate her letters home. Always colorful and colloquial, unusually detailed and frank, Bess's letters are authentic documents of a discrete American time and place. Full of puns, hyperbole, drama, and above all else honesty and authenticity, the eighty-three letters describe barefooted pupils, cantankerous and cooperative parents and school board members, classroom activities, and school picnics against a frugal background of early twentieth-century chores, social occasions, party lines for telephones, chautauquas, church suppers and revivals, new ribbons for second-hand clothes, and buggy and train rides--all seen through the eyes of this talented teenage farm girl not much older than some of her students. Of notable value is the light Bess casts upon the teaching profession as it was practiced in isolated midwestern areas at the moment when our nation determined that, come what may, every American child was going to have access to a basic grammar-school education. Beyond the pleasure of listening to a straight-talker who pulls no punches, one who expects to receive 'some of the praise most of the work and all of the cussing' in return for her efforts, Bess's letters create a veritable concordance of teaching in a one-room rural schoolhouse, a chapter of daily American life all but more

Product details

  • Paperback | 216 pages
  • 144.78 x 233.68 x 15.24mm | 317.51g
  • University of Iowa Press
  • Iowa, United States
  • English
  • New.
  • 17 photos, 3 maps, 5 illustrations
  • 1587299607
  • 9781587299605

Review quote

"An Iowa Schoolma am" stands on its own as a lively story of early twentieth-century teaching in addition to providing the essential background to "Bachelor Bess." Elizabeth Corey s vivid and funny letters provide a unique viewpoint on life in turn-of-the-century, small-town Iowa. The casual reader will enjoy Corey s letters on their own merits, while scholars interested in women s history, the history of education, and the rural Midwest will find the letters useful as well. If nothing else, "An Iowa Schoolma am" should simply be read for the fun of it! Pamela Riney-Kehrberg, Iowa State University"show more

About Paul Theobald

Philip Gerber (1923 2005) was Distinguished Professor of English at the State University of New York at Brockport and the editor of "Bachelor Bess: The Homesteading Letters of Elizabeth Corey, 1909 1919" (Iowa, 1990). Charlotte Wright is managing editor at the University of Iowa Press and the author of "Plain and Ugly Janes" "The Rise of the Ugly Woman in Contemporary American Fiction" (Iowa paperback, 2000)."show more

Rating details

3 ratings
4 out of 5 stars
5 33% (1)
4 33% (1)
3 33% (1)
2 0% (0)
1 0% (0)
Book ratings by Goodreads
Goodreads is the world's largest site for readers with over 50 million reviews. We're featuring millions of their reader ratings on our book pages to help you find your new favourite book. Close X