UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The personal is political : the late nineteenth century Russian schoolmistress speaks for herself Boniface, Pamela J.


In late nineteenth century Russia, a stereotype of schoolmistress as passive victim and amateur featured prominently in the dominant pedagogical discourse. Because present day historians have failed to consider the factors of gender and estate when presenting information concerning the living and working conditions and status of Russian teachers, this stereotype persists in contemporary literature concerned with that country's educational history. Through an analysis of 14 uchitel'nitsy's published memoir/articles, this thesis demonstrates that at least some of the women who entered teaching were competent and self-assured. In fact, almost all schoolmistresses -- who wrote and published their writings --engaged in a counter-discourse challenging the stereotype. The thesis presents its case by first establishing the context in which the pedagogical discourse took place. It then introduces the field of discourse and its participants -- the editors of the journals in which uchitel'nitsy published and the schoolmistresses themselves. In order to place the 14 schoolmistresses in their own context, they are compared with a group of schoolmasters who also wrote and with primary schoolteachers in general. Chapter 3 examines the advice schoolmistresses passed on to their colleagues and women intending to enter the profession. Chapter 4 discusses the layers of discourse schoolmistresses' memoir/articles contain. This thesis attempts to prove that at least some Russian schoolmistresses possessed a gender and estate-determined professional ethic. The existence of such an ethic negates the stereotype of schoolmistress as passive victim. In the stereotype's place, uchitel'nitsy offered a self-created fiction of schoolmistress as servant of the people. Future studies must include this fiction in discussions that specifically concern schoolmistresses. This self-image, or at least the fluid world it suggests, must feature in any discussion concerning journal discourse of the period.

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