• “A Froebel trained ‘Scot’ from Edinburgh”: Isabel Little (1876-1937)

    Helen May (see profile)
    Education, History, New Zealand, Scotland
    Item Type:
    early childhood, Froebel, Gender, History of education, New Zealand history
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    An international Froebel conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, in June 2020 (cancelled due to COVID19) was the opportune occasion to present Miss Little's story at the same institution where she trained as a teacher in the 1890s. A century ago she travelled to New Zealand and embarked on a range of endeavours for the betterment of children and women. Miss Isabel Little has a light footprint in the history of early education in New Zealand. Her teaching footprint in Edinburgh is less known although prior to migrating around 1912, she obtained a Higher Certificate through the National Froebel Union. In the course of earlier researches on the history of early education in New Zealand I happened upon several references to Miss Little, described as ‘a Froebel trained Scot’ and an exemplar of ‘modern methods’ in infant teaching. After visiting Miss Little’s classroom in 1922 Elsie Andrews claimed that ‘seeds of revolt began to burgeon in my soul’ finding that Miss Little had burnt the class desks so that children could play on the floor. This essay is a transnational detective story still being unravelled, but the glimpses of Miss Little and her legacy are illustrative of a time when Froebelian approaches to new education were infiltrating classroom practice. While supported at the highest levels such ‘modern methods’ were curtailed by some school inspectors and resisted by teachers who felt ill equipped to implement change with large classes, ill suited buildings and scant resources. There are glimpses too of Miss Little’s ongoing endeavours on behalf of women and children beyond the classroom with her involvement in various women’s organisations including the kindergarten.
    This essay is linked to the following papers: Kerry Bethell and Helen May (2020) ‘So far from home’: Tracing the endeavours of three Froebel trained teachers from Edinburgh, who migrated to New Zealand in the early 20th century. Kerry Bethell: ‘Forever teachers, forever friends’: Agnes F R Inkpen (1880-1952) and Isabella M Jamieson (1881-1964) (forthcoming)
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    3 years ago
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