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Schoolteacher in Old Alaska: The Story of Hannah Breece
     

Schoolteacher in Old Alaska: The Story of Hannah Breece

by Hannah Breece
 

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When Hannah Breece came to Alaska in 1904, it was a remote lawless wilderness of prospectors, murderous bootleggers, tribal chiefs, and Russian priests.  She spent fourteen years educating Athabascans, Aleuts, Inuits, and Russians with the stubborn generosity of a born teacher and the clarity of an original and independent mind.  Jane Jacobs,

Overview

When Hannah Breece came to Alaska in 1904, it was a remote lawless wilderness of prospectors, murderous bootleggers, tribal chiefs, and Russian priests.  She spent fourteen years educating Athabascans, Aleuts, Inuits, and Russians with the stubborn generosity of a born teacher and the clarity of an original and independent mind.  Jane Jacobs, Hannah's great-niece, here offers an historical context to Breece's remarkable eyewitness account, filling in the narrative gaps, but always allowing the original words to ring clearly.  It is more than an adventure story:  it is a powerful work of women's history that provides important--and, at times, unsettling--insights into the unexamined assumptions and attitudes that governed white settler's behavior toward native communities at the turn of the century.  

"An unforgettable...story of a remarkable woman who lived a heroic life."--The New York Times


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1904, Hannah Breece (1859-1940), an unmarried teacher, was selected by the Interior Department to run an Alaskan school located in the Kodiak Archipelago. For the next 14 years, Breece worked in a variety of remote settlements on the Alaskan frontier, where she taught native children (Aleuts, Kenais, Athabaskans, Eskimos) as well as some remaining Russian children (Russia owned Alaska prior to 1867). Jacobs, a writer (The Death and Life of American Cities) and Breece's grandniece, has skillfully edited her relative's memoir, which she shaped into a dramatic account after visiting the areas where Breece taught. Working in poor communities, Breece often provided her students with food in addition to innovative lessons in elementary-school subjects. Her adventures included dangerous encounters with forest fires and wild dogs. Although she typically expressed a condescending attitude toward native Alaskans and imposed her prohibitionist views on others, Breece's commitment to her students was sincere and enduring. Photos. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Hannah Breece was an extraordinary woman who traveled to Alaska when she was 45 years old and taught Aleuts, Kenais, Athabaskans, and Eskimos from 1904 to 1918. While other women planned their retirement, Breece scaled cliffs, outran forest fires, and traveled in kayaks. Her long skirts and petticoats never slowed her down. Breece's story depicts the early days in Alaska, when travel was difficult to perilous. She was radical in her teaching, believing education should be enjoyable and avoiding the strict discipline her colleagues employed. Her story reflects on other Alaskan pioneers, namely, Sheldon Jackson and Dr. Henry O. Schlaben. The editor, Breece's niece, visited where Breece taught and describes what the places look like today. Numerous photographs dot the volume, and the book is well indexed, with numerous notes. A welcome addition to the literature on early Alaskan teachers. Recommended for libraries with Alaskan or Pacific Northwest history collections.-Katherine Ellerton, Missouri Research & Education Network, Columbia
Patricia Hassler
Hannah Breece gave new meaning to the term "substitute teacher" when in 1940 at age 45 she was employed by the Department of the Interior to take over a classroom in the Kodiak archipelago. For the next 14 years, she would travel to lonely Alaskan settlements from Fort Yukon to Wrangell like an itinerant Ichabod Crane teaching Aleuts, Eskimos, and people of mixed native and European blood. Breece composed a memoir based on her letters home and asked her great-niece, Jane Jacobs, to help with its publication. Decades later, Jacobs has fulfilled the request by editing this engrossing account of Breece's Alaskan adventure. She describes Breece as a veritable "Jessica Fletcher," an inventively radical teacher--dependable, resourceful, lively, and forthright--who opted for assignments in deserted areas where she was greeted by motivated students and grateful parents. Her memoir is a fascinating account of falls through the ice, eating bear, crossing dangerous glacial streams, a sled-dog attack, and lonely homesickness for the" sun. Breece desired to civilize not "whiticize" the natives, and educators will wish she had included more details on classroom technique. This must have been "whole language" in its purest form.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307490544
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/30/2008
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
336
File size:
6 MB

Meet the Author

Born in Pennsylvania in1859, Hannah Breece taught on Indian reservations in midwest America before accepting a government post to teach in Alaska.

Jane Jacobs is the author of several books, including the Death And Life of Great American Cities, Cities And The Wealth of Nations, and most recently, the bestselling Systems of Survival.  She lives in Toronto.

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