Shippensburg, PA: 1892. Manuscript notebook measuring 200 x 170mm and comprised of 73 handwritten pages organized and designed to assist in future teaching. Internally, the manuscript is legible and detailed with the first few leaves laid in loosely; externally damaged along the spine with amateur tape repair. Owned by D. A. Forsyth, a young woman who would graduate the following year, the manuscript provides insight into how progressive training programs were preparing young women for futures leading classrooms.
In the mid-late nineteenth century, the demand for teachers grew as an increasing number of public schools expanded enrollment to girls and women; in turn, women gained new opportunities for teacher-training and careers in the classroom. Pennsylvania was a front-runner, opening its first in 1859. Among these was the Cumberland Valley State Normal School (CVSNS, later Shippensburg University), where Forsyth trained. A large program of 200 students, CVSNS was co-educational from its opening (with 54% of the body women); and while it strove to equally educate the sexes, men and women were "incredibly segregated with strict rules enforced by the professors. Students were prohibited from meeting one-on-one needing to be in groups of three or more, note writing was forbidden, and a black line" divided any shared spaces (Fashion Archives). Strict dress guidelines also dictated how the women were clothed on campus and off.
Forsyth's notebook reveals that in the face of social conservatism, the curriculum she learned was unexpectedly progressive and had at its foundation a mission to "inspire the child and excite his interest by telling him of the wonderful things of which he is to learn." Lessons should be broken down into easily-followed components, fitting for the students' age groups, and students should interact with material not only through reading or recitation but also with hands-on play and group collaboration. New material is introduced like an out-ward moving circle, beginning with the familiar surroundings of the classroom, the school grounds, the town itself, and expanding outward until the students can access information about far-reaching parts and peoples of the world. Forsyth's lessons -- many drawn from a class taught by a Miss Hammond -- notably incorporate words, cultures, and concepts not rooted in Western Christianity. In addition to a section on The Races (a section which describes "Aryan," "Semitic," "Mongolian," "Malay," "[Native] American," and "Negro" peoples in highly generalized but not judgmental or ranked terms), the lessons consider the meanings of geographic words and vocabulary from native Nations such as the Wampanoag as well as from Spanish speaking parts of the world. It becomes clear that for Forsyth, children deserve and need a working knowledge of the cultures influencing the world around them, so they can become more sensitive and aware of the origins of certain types of foods, artwork, architectural structures, landmarks, names, and more. (Item #5316)