Gender Wage Gap: Teachers of Hillsborough County, NH, 1878-1890

Why New Hampshire Teachers?

This paper and project begin to serve as a case study of the development of the professional field of teaching in one geographic space. With Hillsborough County’s construction of growing cities and declining towns, showcasing an interchange of the importance of mills and farms, teachers represent a small but important section of the working population in this changing space.

Timeline and Spatial History

•1878-1890, excluding 1889 as the dataset from the UNH Library did not have this year’s State School Report digitized.

•1878 – NH Women gain right to vote in School Board elections

•1885 – Town School Act, where “the division of towns into school districts heretofore existing is hereby abolished, and each town shall hereafter constitute a single district for school purposes; provided, however, that districts organized under special acts of the legislature may retain their present organization.” (Laws of the State of New Hampshire. Section 1. Article 43, Laws of 1885.)

•This act established the School Board – 3 members

•1890 – Census year defining rural and urban

•I use 1900/1910 definitions: rural = less than 2,500 residents; urban = 2,500+

Leon E. Truesdell. “The Development of the Urban-Rural Classification in the United States: 1874 TO 1949”. US Census Bureau, Series P-23, no. 1. 1949.

•In 1890, 4 urban/urbanizing towns/cities in Hillsborough County, NH: Manchester, Nashua, Milford, Peterborough.


Data source: New Hampshire Annual State School Reports from the UNH Library (digitized). Used these reports and created Excel spreadsheets for each year, copying in the tables.

Imported geographic data into Tableau to create an interactive map of Hillsborough County, NH (pictured above). Imported Excel sheets into Tableau to visualize data, then uploaded finished connections to Tableau Public.

Gender-Wage Analysis

First, look at the “Teacher Gender Breakdown” tab in the above visual.

Women made up ~90% of the total teacher workforce, but made only 55% of pay compared to men

Switch to the “Wage Gender Breakdown” tab. The peak of the wage disparity appears in 1888, where 43 total male teachers made an average of $61.34 per month but 468 female teachers made an average of $27.10 per month.

Though women constituted 92% of the teacher workforce in 1888, they made only 44% of what men did.

Professionalization + Wage Premium

Scholars Strober and Lanford discuss a “wage premium” and “reservation wage” for men working in the teaching field. The field was professionalizing in this time, as noted by the Town School Act, creation of State Normal Schools and Teacher’s Colleges, and growth along with industrial fields. Strober and Lanford argue that “most men who remained teachers had a substantially higher reservation wage than their female counterparts, largely because of the higher wages available to men in alternative jobs.”

Strober, Myra H., and Audri Gordon Lanford. “The Feminization of Public School Teaching: Cross-Sectional Analysis, 1850-1880.” Signs 11, no. 2 (1986): 212-35. Accessed March 16, 2021.

Look at the graph comparing the four “urban” towns in 1890. Milford and Peterborough are examples of the growth of a wage premium along with the attainment of urban status. Due to Milford’s expansion at the time, other jobs were coming in, and men’s wages in teaching increased to reflect this new reservation wage.

In the towns with the lowest population (Windsor, Sharon, and Litchfield), there were so few male teachers that no conclusive or steady data may be pulled to make an argument other than that where population is low, pay is low, and men are not part of the teaching workforce. However, there are a few outstanding examples where men were not paid substantially more than women were.

For example, especially following 1885, when the town of Pelham employed male teachers the wages between genders were on average much more equal than in other towns employing male teachers; both female and male teachers were paid ~$34-36 per month on average. This is similar in neighboring Hudson, where male teachers and female teachers were consistently paid within $3 of each other’s average monthly wages. In some cases, male teachers were paid less than their female counterparts, but this fluctuated between years at the end of the decade as seen in Nashua. Below, the graph comparing wages in Hudson and Pelham display these trends.


It is clear looking at the Hillsborough County data that womens’ pay was substantially lower than men’s wages, and the existence of a “wage premium” for men in teaching was prevalent in the urban county. As contributing factors, there were the longstanding ideals that male teachers were better at disciplining the older boys in the classroom, ideas of professionalization, and competitive salaries for other jobs that men could hold. This data in both numbers and analysis of language and ideals comes from the digitized New Hampshire State Publications Annual Reports, 1878-1890, held in the University of New Hampshire Library.

New Hampshire State Publications Annual Reports. “Teachers” Statistical Table 4., Hillsborough County. Superintendent’s Report. 1878-1890.