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New Publication: "Encounters in the Fairy Hill"

Fri, 06/17/2016 - 10:59am
The Spring 2016 issue of The Bottle Imp, the online journal of the Association for Scottish Literary Studies, is devoted to Naomi Mitchison. Included in the issue is my essay "Encounters in the Fairy Hill," exploring the connections between Mitchison's children's book The Fairy Who Couldn't Tell a Lie (1963) and her memoir of becoming an honorary member of the Bakgatla tribe in Botswana, Return to the Fairy Hill (1966). It's about imagination and encountering difference.

My two earlier essays on Mitchison—“Naomi Mitchison: Peaceable Transgressor" (New England Review) and "'Real and Not Real': Naomi Mitchison's Philosophy of the Historical Novel” (Readings)—were recently reprinted in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, vol. 327, edited by Lawrence J. Trudeau (Gage/Cengage Learning 2016). 
Categories: Citizens

A Pioneer of Women's Rights: Phebe Sudlow, the First Female School Superintendent in the United States

Mon, 05/30/2016 - 7:44am
In 1860, twenty-nine year old Phebe Sudlow had been teaching for twelve years—for most of that time in a one-room school schoolhouse in rural Scott County, Iowa—when she was appointed principal at Grammar School No. 2 in the city of Davenport.

When she found that the salary she had been offered was less than that of a male colleague in the same position, Sudlow she brought up the issue with the school board. At the time, lower salaries for women were justified on the grounds that female teachers—unmarried women who left teaching when they married—had only themselves, while male teachers had families to support. The school board refused to raise Sudlow’s pay, but she continued to press the issue.
In 1874, when she was chosen to become Davenport’s superintendent of schools, she again approached the school board and refused to accept the position unless her salary was equal to that of her male predecessor.
“Gentlemen,” she told the school board, “if you are cutting the salary because of my experience, I have nothing to say; but if you are doing this because I am a woman, I’ll have nothing more to do with it.
The school board agreed to Sudlow’s conditions, and she was hired as the first female superintendent of schools in the United States. Thanks to Sudlow’s efforts, the teachers’ contract in Davenport was changed to offer equal pay to men and women—decades before this became the standard practice elsewhere.
In an address given as the first female  president of the Iowa State Teachers Association in 1877, Sudlow said: "I cannot understand why equal attainment, equal culture, and equal strength of purpose and will should not have equal influence whether in man or woman."

The following year, she was hired as the first female professor at the University of Iowa. As one newspaper reported: "Every institution of this kind should have at least one lady in its faculty; and we know of no one more worthy to fill the place than Miss Sudlow."

(Photo from the Davenport School Museum)
Categories: Citizens

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