Author Information

Casey Rekowski


Through a close reading of Horace Mann’s archival material including official documents and speeches, this paper argues that Horace Mann expanded women’s social roles in the nineteenth century. Whether he intended such an outcome or not, Horace Mann’s agenda to improve common schools increased American women’s educational and professional opportunities. Drawing upon the popular ideology of the day, Mann articulated a detailed rationale for placing women, as “natural teachers” at the center of public education in Massachusetts when he became the first secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education in 1837. This can best be seen through his annual reports to the Board of Education as well as how his ideas took shape at one of his original three normal schools, Bridgewater State Normal School. The normal school gave women academic experience above the high school level - which was usually reserved for men, and trained them for the noble profession of teaching. Mann’s philosophy of women, which was widely disseminated, was limited by contemporary ideas about gender, his political position, and the constraints of establishing a school specifically to train a corps of common school teachers. Despite this, Mann does show a progressive awareness of women’s issues for his time period that should not be overlooked. Since this aspect of Horace Mann and his normal schools has not been widely studied, this honors thesis, completed in the Fall of 2006, contributes new knowledge about gender and educational policy during a pivotal moment in American history.

Note on the Author

Casey Rekowski graduated summa cum laude from Bridgewater State College in May of 2007, earning a Bachelor of Arts in History and a minor in Secondary Education. Casey conducted this research, which was partially funded by an ATP summer grant, under the mentorship of Dr. Margaret Lowe of the History Department. This excerpt represents a small portion of her Honors Thesis which was accepted by, and presented at, the National Conference of Undergraduate Research in 2007.

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