Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Traditionally women and their role in history has been overlooked or under-represented. This thesis will look at teachers and education in Barnes County, Dakota Territory and North Dakota, from the years 1879 to 1909. By 1879 the feminization of the teaching profession had occurred, and most Barnes County, and North Dakota, youth were taught by women. However, this is not only a study of female educators. To understand teaching and education in Barnes County, one needs to include male teachers, for they too played important roles.

The material for this study came mostly from primary sources: Barnes County school records, manuscript collections, and the Works Progress Administration oral history project. Additional information came from state and territorial records, newspapers, Valley City Normal School catalogues and reports, journal articles, and books.

This thesis chronicles teaching and education in Barnes County, beginning with the first organized district, Daily #1. When the Daily district organized in the winter of 1878-1879, pupils met in an attic with no heat. Thirty years later there were 96 districts in the county, 136 ungraded schools and 15 graded schools.

In addition to the numerical growth of schools in the county, information is provided on qualifications needed to teach, training beyond eighth grade, physical conditions, courses taught, students, and the living conditions teachers encountered. Also included are criticisms levelled by professional educators, vis-a-vis the Department of Public Instruction, that bemoan the quality of rural education and rural educators. While some criticisms directed toward the educational system, and in particular the rural, one-room school, were valid, the picture critics painted revealed a dismal situation. While there were shortcomings, the youth of Barnes County were afforded a quality education. The reality was that teachers in Barnes County provided competent instruction under very difficult circumstances.

Consistently, schools in Barnes County held longer terms than the rest of North Dakota. More school districts in Barnes County provided students with texts purchased public funds than state-wide ensuring students access to uniform textbooks. A smaller percentage of. Barnes County teachers taught with permits than in other counties, which theoretically meant that the teachers were more educated and competent. On average, Barnes County teachers were paid more, which supposedly also improved the quality of the educator and the entire system.