January 26, 1864

Lowell Women Sign On to Teach in the West


On this day in 1864, a visitor from Seattle held a meeting in Lowell. Asa Mercer explained to his largely female audience that there was a great scarcity of teachers in the Washington Territory. Jobs — and single men — were plentiful. Both were in short supply in Massachusetts. Any woman who could raise the money for her passage would readily find a teaching position — and soon a husband. Mercer also appealed to the women's sense of duty: "their presence and influence were so much needed" in the West, he told them. In spite of the opportunities Seattle offered, it was unimaginably far away. Only 11 women chose to accompany Mercer on his journey home. These brave teacher-pioneers were long known as the "Mercer Girls."

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