Joplin, Montana: 1916-1917. Pair of paper bound U.S. School Series Composition Books, with handwritten dates 1916 and 1917 to front covers. Comprised of a total of 96 densely handwritten pages in pencil. The first journal of 1916 contains Fossen's daily entries across a total of 50 pages. The second journal contains daily entries across a total of 46 pages. An information rich pair of manuscripts documenting the complex and demanding labor women performed during the war, and how their work positioned them within their families and communities.
A primary school teacher at the Lone Prairie School in Montana, Gyda Fossen was also a wife to farmer Andy Fossen and the mother of two children. Her detailed entries reveal that her work was not limited to educating local children in reading and arithmetic; she was also responsible for the care and maintenance of the school house, providing supplies including firewood in the winter, and helping to share rides and ensure that other faculty members could make it to and from their farms to school. Gyda's work did not stop when she was at home however. She regularly comments being exhausted at the end of the school day; and following a nap, she returns to work alongside her husband, at times assisting with livestock and seeding, at other times staying in the home to do ironing, mending, and providing medical care to the children. Gyda's marriage to Andy appears to be loving and companionate; when she travels to a teacher's convention, or when he leaves for market, she notes being lonely for him. Yet it becomes clear that Andy's work is largely limited to the farmland, while Gyda's extends into a wider array of labor.
Of particular note is an entry dated "November 7, . National and State Election Day." Remarking that a day off from teaching felt like a "free day," Gyda reveals that she is politically interested despite being unable to vote herself. Accompanying Andy to the polling location, "we found Brinkman's school house filled with men voting in plain sight of all." It appears that a local or school board election was allowable for Gyda to vote in, and she says "We got out ballots, found a vacant seat, and proceeded to cast our votes pro and con."
An exceptionally detailed and rich pair of manuscripts, with research opportunities including but not limited to the history of voting and women's enfranchisement in the Western states, the history of education and rural schools, women's paid and unpaid labor, child labor, the history of medicine, rural supply chains during World War I, family and marriage, women's rural communities, and gender studies more broadly. (Item #2470)