Hello Forest County Residents!
To end National Women’s History Month I would like to tell you the story of a local teacher who was discriminated against because she was a woman but persevered in the end. Grace Ison was born in Pholox, Wisconsin to Andrew and Iva Schmidt in 1925. She graduated from Antigo High School in 1943 then went on to Normal School and received her education degree in 1945. After graduating she taught in Lynnhurst, Wisconsin for one year. In 1946, she married George Ison and the couple settled in Crandon. Grace continued her career as a teacher in Crandon at the Range Line School and then continued at the School District of Crandon (Forest Republican, Nov. 20, 2002). But Grace’s career as an educator came to a crashing halt when she became pregnant in 1957. According to resolution put in place by the Crandon School District:
” Married women teachers now employed, or married women teachers that may be employed in the future, that in the event that they become pregnant the respective teacher is to resign when her condition becomes apparent or the fifth month of pregnancy has been reached whichever comes first” (Chester Jackson, 1957).
Concerned about this resolution Mrs. Ison wrote to the State Superintendent to plead her case. She detailed her confrontation with the District Superintendent and principal in the letter. When she first alerted principal of her condition he assured her that she could finish out the school year, have the baby in the summer, and return to teaching in the fall. But on March 18, she was called into the office and the Superintendent explained:
“We are always glad to have a family increase but after five months of pregnancy our teachers are asked to resign. And we must replace you for another year as we do not know the baby will be born on time, and we can’t afford to hire two teachers. We have had to use force in some cases but its a nasty situation so we’d rather not have trouble. You will not need to come back after April 1st” (G.E. Watson, 1957).
This would cause her to lose her insurance and her career! She said she was willing to take two months leave without pay and without insurance but she would not resign. The State Superintendent responded by saying they did not like to get involved with contractual status of teachers. Soon after Grace received a letter not renewing her contract for the following school year. They had replaced her with the secretary in the office (Jackson, 1957).
According to her obituary, Grace Ison continued her teaching career until the Fall of 2001 so in the end Grace came out on top and got to carry on with the job she loved. The passing of Title IX in 1972 did away with these horrible sexist resolutions put into place by school boards (www.nwhm.org). Women’s rights have come a long way but women still make thirty cents less an hour for doing the same jobs as men. So follow the example of passionate women like Grace, and stand up for equal rights!