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Swoboda, Marian J.; Roberts, Audrey J. / They came to learn, they came to teach, they came to stay

Harycki, Marcia
Chapter 15: Women in industrial education,   pp. 85-88

Page 85

15. Women in Industrial Education
by Marcia Harycki
The year was 1909, the month was June. Stout Institute, formerly the
Stout Training Schools, was to graduate its sixth class of manual training
teachers that summer evening.
Manual training had been a part of the Menomonie community's public
school system since the 1890s, when Stout Training Schools had been en-
dowed by Senator Stout to serve the needs of the city's boys and girls. In
1903 the school had been reorganized as a two-year teacher training institute
when handwork became more popular in area curriculums, and the demand
for instructors had grown.
The manual training program began in kindergarten and continued
through the high school, and was the first of its kind in America.' It provided
a broad experience in using a number of materials and tools, and a good acquaintance
with fundamental processes of handwork. [The main purpose of manual training
was] to
furnish a general training of hand and eye, and a wide familiarity with industrial
At the kindergarten and elementary levels, manual training consisted of
handwork with clay, paper and cardboard, basketry, and weaving. Children
used scissors, made envelopes, wound raffia into baskets, molded clay, con-
structed cardboard boxes, and in the third and fourth grades also worked
weaving reed baskets and cotton rugs.3
From the fifth grade a differentiation takes place, the boys getting shop
work of various
kinds, through the next eight years, including elementary work in wood and
bent iron,
carpentry, wood turning, pattern making, molding, forging and machine shop
the girls being given work in domestic art and science during the same period,
cluding hand and machine sewing, cutting, fitting, and making of garments,
home decoration and furnishing, design as applied in different phases of
household art,
cooking, food study, dietetics, home nursing and emergencies, and household
Such a division of labor and interest among the sexes being the norm in
the early 1900s, it was no wonder that Senator Stout responded the way he
did that graduation night when Theodora Coffin received her diploma.
On that warm June evening in 1909, I being the only girl in the [Manual Training
teachers] class, led the men members across the stage to receive our diplomas
from the
hands of Senator Stout.
Senator Stout had seen and talked to me many times in the workshop, but he
didn't recognize me in evening attire. He must have thought I had made a
mistake. He
fumbled around in the two other baskets and finally selected a kindergarten
[diploma]. I thanked him and then passed it on to the owner.5
Theodora Coffin, referred to as "Ted" by her classmates,6 thus
began a
teaching career which was to continue for the next thirty-five years. Now
aged ninety and living in California, her first teaching position was in
Frankfurt, Kentucky, at a state home for the retarded. Eventually she settled
on the west coast.
At Stout, Coffin had intended to take only manual training courses, but
two of the teachers refused her entrance into their shops. They felt a woman

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