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Winslow Homer (American, 1836 - 1910)
The School Mistress, about 1873, watercolor on paper.
Gift of Mr. Henry Strater, in memory of Adeline Helene Strater 1931.4

A young teacher, recognizable by the book she carries and the prim manner of her dress walks along a village lane in this watercolor by Winslow Homer. Behind her several children are cresting the hill. Besides portraying an idyllic scene, this painting captures a shifting sensibility in American childhood education. Not only was the little red schoolhouse gradually disappearing, many of the male teachers left their schools to fight in the Civil War and did not return. These men, regarded as brutal disciplinarians, were replaced with young, well trained female teachers highly valued for their professionalism. In the 1870’s Winslow Homer painted several images of rural schools and schoolteachers. This body of work was done at a time when American attitudes toward education were moving away from the whip and toward a view that the process was about natural development and was best encouraged by kindness.




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