Schoolteacher in Old Alaska: The Story of Hannah Breece

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...
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Schoolteacher in Old Alaska: The Story of Hannah Breece

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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

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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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679776338
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/28/1997
  • Series: Vintage Series
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.67 (d)

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

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