Teachers’ lives in transition : gendered experiences of work and family among primary school teachers in northern Sweden, c. 1860–1940

Sammanfattning: In this thesis, primary school teachers in a coastal area of northern Sweden c. 1860–1940 are studied with the overarching purpose to investigate the link between professional work and private life. Four sub-studies provide results on who the teachers were with regard to gender, professional status (teacher qualification) and socio-economic background, and on their family formation during the study period. Dis(similarities) over time and between the genders are analysed and discussed within a life-course framework, especially concerning women’s possibility to become teachers and combine their employment with family formation. The findings are obtained through quantitative as well as qualitative analyses of multiple sources like digitised parish records, censuses, teacher registers and a diary. The latter provides unique insights into the everyday life of a young woman and her interaction with the local community through her teacher position and social networks. The results show both continuity and change. The recruitment pattern of primary school teachers in terms of social origin remained stable throughout the study period. A farming origin was most typical while children of higher professionals were most likely to become teachers, but this group alone could not cover the need for new teachers. National reforms of the teacher training and its increasing accessibility on a regional level had a big impact on the number, qualification, and gender composition of primary school teachers in the study area. Results on the dynamic link between work and family formation show that female teachers were among the first middle-class women to increase their share in experiencing motherhood. In the 20th century, an increasing proportion of women who entered the teaching profession returned to it after having children. Overall, the thesis results show that women teachers in contrast to their male counterparts experienced fundamental transitions in their professional as well as family life. This indicates a shift in the perception of a respectable woman teacher. In the 19th century, she could be either a teacher or a mother but rarely both at the same time. Along with changes in societal structures and gendered norms during the 20th century, teaching mothers became far more common suggesting that they enjoyed respectability. The variety of findings of this thesis and its mix of methods allow it to contribute to several fields within history, such as social history, historical demography, gender history and history of education.