Indiana State Normal School
1972, Indiana State
University president Alan Rankin and
other administrative officers issued a report titled “The President’s
Commission on the Status of Faculty Women at Indiana State
University.” The contents
of this document describe at length the lack of care provided for women faculty
and what actions against this the University planned to take. This report came
at a time of great social change for women and was a report easily acceptable
and presentable to Indiana
This report also came one hundred years after the creation of Indiana State
Normal School, a time when
such a report would have been a mockery. During its early years, the school’s
number of women was not high and hiring practices that favored men and not
women were often overlooked. It is also true, however, that many of the women who
taught history in the early years of ISNS were nevertheless able to overcome
these adversities and become influential personages at the school, despite the
greater perceived popularity of their male colleagues.
of these women was Mary Bruce, who
joined the faculty in 1870. Born and raised in Aurora,
Illinois and educated at the Oswego Normal School
in New York, Bruce
had received superb training in the art of teaching prior to her arrival at
ISNS. Her first teaching assignment was in the department of History and Geography
and many later alumni listings of Mary Bruce note this as her principal area.
However, it was only for a short time that Mary taught this subject and she was
soon reassigned to teach English and Composition. In this department, Mary
became a close confidante of President Jones who took her under her wing with
great admiration for her abilities. These two developed a close relationship as
fellow scholars and were close friends even outside of academic life. In fact, she
even gave President Jones and his wife $1000 for the purchase of a farm in
a great deal of effort in her first few years at ISNS to the production of a
pamphlet on the basics of English grammar, Bruce and president
Jones worked tirelessly to complete their Lessons in Thinking and in
Expressing Thought. Published in Terre Haute
and distributed privately to her students, this instructional book on grammar
and composition formalized the teaching of the subject for Indiana State
Normal School. The work is
still available in the Special Collections section of Indiana State’s
Cunningham Library. It was referred to numerous times by several grammar
professors after Bruce, most notably in an English textbook by Professor
Wisely. It was noted that few professors
of the time took as much initiative in the development of critical thought for
students as did Mary Bruce.
continued these successful teaching methods until she was overcome by illness
in 1879 and forced to resign. Her resignation was more than likely due to her
illness, but there were also rumors of her dissatisfaction with the intrusions by
the next president, George Brown, upon her teaching style during the later
years of her tenure. These rumors were corroborated in part by the simultaneous
resignations of six other professors. As William Lynch noted in his history of
the institution, Brown was fond of the teaching ideas of both Jones and Bruce,
but had theories of his own that he wished to implement into the English and
Composition curriculum, ultimately successfully, if not also without stiff resistance.
In any event, it is just as likely that Bruce’s resignation stemmed largely
from illness, considering that she died just a few months after leaving the
school in September 1879.
prominent faculty member of the early years of Indiana State
Normal School was Lucy Maynard Salmon. Born in New
York City in 1853 to Maria Maynard, a former school
teacher, and George Salmon, the young Lucy was instilled with a sense of hard
work, determination, and independence. She lived a relatively simple life at
home, helping her mother maintain the house and learning the art of home
economics. Lucy was influenced to move beyond the domain of domesticity in her
life, perhaps jealous of her brother Pomeroy’s greater prospects as a male. As
her natural talents for history became increasingly evident, she decided to
pursue a career in the field, with her family’s blessing.
Salmon was ready to leave home to acquire advanced training, she chose to
attend the University
of Michigan. This school
was one of the most liberal in the nation at the time and this was partly what
attracted her to it. During her studies she became a superior student of
history with a profound interest in the subject of women. While in Ann Arbor, she had several
opportunities to speak out against what she believed were injustices against
women. She carried these lessons with her after graduation when she was
suddenly faced with the daunting task of finding a job that would support
her—and this in a depressed American economy following the panic of 1873. She
finally found a position as a high school teacher in McGregor, Iowa,
in spite of discriminatory hiring practices. Once there, however, Salmon found
the job troubling because of the amount of disciplinary action she was forced to
take against the male students who often blatantly challenged her authority.
Nevertheless, she eventually became the principal of the high school, resigning
the post in 1882.
1883 she returned to the University
of Michigan to compose a
Master’s thesis under the supervision of Professor Charles K. Adams. Not long
after its completion, she was recommended for a history professorship at Indiana State Normal School.
Though initially hesitant, the prospect of teaching history was far too alluring
not to accept. That being said, Salmon was skeptical that she had much of an
influential role in the faculty and was even critical of the school itself for
its tendency to “put the cart before the horse.” But despite these reservations,
Salmon went to work and won respect in the department for her well-structured
explanations of the nature of historiography.
of Salmon’s time at ISNS, however, was either spent working with other
organizations or on leave doing further graduate study—the latter at Bryn Mawr from 1886-1887. In 1884, she became the first person
to join the newly formed American Historical Association and one year later she
had the opportunity to present part of her thesis before one of its meetings. Entitled
“The History of the Appointing Power of the President,” the paper was of great
interest to contemporary proponents of civil service reform such as George W.
Curtis. She left Indiana State Normal School
in 1887 after only four short years and began a history professorship at Vassar College.
It was here that she became one of the nation’s most renowned female historians,
and gained special recognition through her appointment in 1896 to the American
Historical Association’s “Committee of Seven,” which was given the charge of
advocating for history’s place within the American school curriculum. Her students there admired her immensely and continued
to praise her work and determination over the next thirty years. Then in 1927,
while sitting pensively at her desk, Lucy Salmon died of a stroke. She was
seventy-four years old.
other influential female professors of history passed through ISNS after Mary
Bruce and Lucy Salmon, even if many of them, too, eventually spent their
careers elsewhere. These include Agnes Rounds, who taught history in
1886; Gladys McClung, who taught
European history in 1917; and Maria
Jacobs, who taught History of Education from 1921-1922. Their reasons for
leaving are vague at best, which may cause one to wonder as to the nature of the
hiring and treatment of women in the early years of the institution. Considering the knowledge and skill level of
Mary Bruce and Lucy Salmon, it is hard to believe that there were not more
women like them and even harder to believe that they could be so utterly
overshadowed by their male counterparts. With this background in mind, the
tenor of the 1972 report on the status of faculty women may be all the more
understandable, as it provides a new perspective as well as giving a new
perspective on the history of women not only at Indiana State, but in academia
as a whole.
Sean Stewart Eisele
Allen, Max P. History of the Indiana State
Teachers College. Thesis, ISU, 1930.
Brown, Louise. Apostle
of Democracy, The Life of Lucy Maynard Salmon.
(New York and London: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1943.)
George Brown File, Indiana
Archives, Terre Haute, Indiana.
Lynch, William O. A
History of Indiana State Teacher’s College. (Terre Haute:
Indiana State Teachers College, 1946.)
Mary Bruce File, Indiana State
University Archives, Terre Haute, Indiana.
Orrill, Robert and Linn Shapiro. “From Bold
Beginnings to an Uncertain Future: The Discipline of History and History
Education.” American Historical Review 110 (2005): 727-51.
Rankin, Alan. President’s Commission on the Status
of Faculty Women at Indiana
(Terre Haute: Indiana State University, 1972.)
Salmon, Lucy. Historical Material. New York: Oxford
University Press, 1933.
________. Why is History Rewritten? New York: Oxford
University Press, 1929.
William Jones File, Indiana
Archives, Terre Haute, Indiana.