Women and education have, over the past generation, become far more fascinating subjects for western historians. Jurgen Herbst, professor emeritus from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has tackled these topics with enthusiasm supported by a wide spectrum of archival, newspaper and published sources.
His focus is on neighboring Silverton from 1876, as the community struggles to create a public school system, to the first high school graduation in 1902. Herbst concludes with a short summary of recent developments and problems for a town losing population and its tax base.
Against the background of a community that emerged from a small mining camp into a full-fledged town, Silverton tussles with creating educational opportunities for its children. It proved a never-ending struggle and still is.
As was typical for the time, the teachers were predominately women, and their tribulations are clearly shown in problems that sound familiar: scarcity of funds, public attitudes toward education, student absenteeism and turnover in staff and school board.
Chapter 11 is a must read for everyone, as it clearly summarizes and focuses on the educational successes and failures. The six appendices provide fascinating insights, as well. Along the way, the reader will learn a host of tidbits about Silverton history from railroads to city government to local prostitution.
I quibble with Herbst's decision not to have "Silverton" in the title as that is the focus of the book. Certainly, while it is not the author's fault, the $74.95 price seems excessive, even in this time of rising book prices.
Duane Smith is a Fort Lewis College history professor. Reach him at 247-2589.