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HomeLocal ResourcesKillingworth Historical SocietyHistoric Women of Killingworth: Harriet E. Warrel, First Female Teacher

Historic Women of Killingworth: Harriet E. Warrel, First Female Teacher

Submitted by Claudette Lagasse, Killingworth Historical Society.

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series about the Historic Women of Killingworth. In 2001 Sandy Smith proposed making small replicas of Historical Killingworth Women. Each doll was sold for $15 as a fundraiser for the Historical Society. Five dolls were made, one for each year 2001-2005. The first article can be found HERE. The second article can be found HERE. Below is the information that was included with the Harriet E. Warrel doll.


Our Third “Historic Women of Killingworth”
Christmas Doll Ornament – 2003

Sandy Smith was surprised when she came upon Harriet E. Warrel’s name in the Union District School Board book 25 years ago!  Here was something almost unheard of…a female teacher in the year 1828 in the rural boondocks of America. Not much is known about Harriet, as the early censuses only record the head of households.  We do know that (1) she was most likely single, as unmarried women were expected to provide for themselves; (2) that she lived near the “green” schoolhouse; (3) that she came from a very progressive, educated household, as most rural women could not read or write; (4) that she is probably Harriet “Wardell,” third wife of Orris (Horace) Bailey (originally from Haddam, CT, but moved to Delhi, NY, in his late teens/early twenties).  It is believed that Harriet was born ca. 1804 in Connecticut and died March 1898 in Delhi, NY.

Green Schoolhouse

Harriet was hired 12/1/1828…it was not until summer of 1845 that another female teacher would be hired to teach at the schoolhouse.  It was common practice that women were employed by school boards only temporarily until they found “suitable” husbands.  From the records of the 1870 Board minutes: “Recommended that the wages of female teachers do not exceed $25 per month.  Voted that $36 per month be the limit for male teachers.”  During Harriet’s time, female schoolteachers were generally paid 1/3 to 1/2 of the wages paid to male teachers.

Our Harriet doll holds in her hands Noah Webster’s original American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828.  It took Webster, a Connecticut native and lifelong resident of the state, over 27 years to write his book.  He completed it the same year Harriet taught school at the “green” schoolhouse.  Noah Webster owns the unique distinction of having single-handedly rescued the English Language from the corrupting political and social influences of the European nations of his day.  He added American words that weren’t in English dictionaries, such as “skunk” and “squash.”

Harriet is clothed in typical 1828 fashion…dresses with very large shoulders, huge collars, bows, stripes with flowers fabric, and the padded skirt hemline, the precursor of the hoop skirt.  She is signed and dated on her left leg.

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