One Room Schools

Long after more urban states moved children into graded, multi-room schools, Vermont continued to have many one- and two-room rural schools dotting the countryside.

The turning point came during the late 1940s when, for the first time in state history, there were fewer rural schoolteachers than graded elementary school teachers.

In the early 1980s, when the photographs featured in this exhibit were taken, only eight schools remained in Vermont where children of at least six grades were taught together in a single room.

Diana Mara Henry’s photographs were a central part of a research project conceived and undertaken by Middlebury College Sociology Professor, Margaret K. Nelson. Recognizing that from the mid nineteenth century forward school teaching had been a major occupation for vast numbers of women, Professor Nelson had set out to explore this career path in order to better understand the lives of women in the first half of the twentieth century.

Over the course of her research Professor Nelson focused on those who had taught in one-room schoolhouses in Addison County, Vermont, interviewing about twenty such women and conducting archival research in town clerks’ offices and in the state library.

Diana Mara Henry’s photographs of one-room schoolhouses and teachers mark the end of an era. Coupled with interview excerpts and text compiled by Margaret K. Nelson, the exhibit offers a glimpse into a time when students of every age and grade level—and their teachers—gathered in a single room to learn the lessons of the day.