Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
In 1953, Margot Pringle, newly graduated from Cornell University, took a job as a teacher in a one-room school in rural eastern Montana, sixty miles southeast of Miles City. “Miss Margot,” as her students called her, would teach at the school for one year. This book is the memoir she wrote then, published here for the first time, under her married name. Filled with humor and affection for her students, Horseback Schoolmarm recounts Liberty’s coming of age as a teacher, as well as what she taught her students.
Margot’s school was located on the SH Ranch, whose owner needed a way to retain his hired hands after their children reached school age. Few teachers wanted to work in such remote and primitive circumstances. Margot lived alone in a “teacherage,” hardly more than a closet at one end of the schoolhouse. It had electricity but no phone, plumbing, or running water. She drew water from a well outside. The nearest house was a half-mile away. Margot had a car, but she had to park it so far away, she kept her saddle horse, Orphan Annie, in the schoolyard.
Miss Margot started with no experience and no supplies, but her spunk and inventiveness, along with that of her seven students, made the school a success. Evocative of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s school-teaching experiences some eighty years earlier, Horseback Schoolmarm gives readers a firsthand look at an almost forgotten—yet not so distant—way of life.
“Margot Liberty has written a warm and memorable account of the everyday struggles and triumphs of teaching in an isolated, one-room schoolhouse in the 1950s. She gives us a very personal glimpse into a unique time and place in the American West that might otherwise have been forgotten.” —Pamela Smith Hill, author of Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life
“A charming book and a pleasurable read. Margot Liberty’s memoir of teaching in a one-room schoolhouse in a sparsely populated corner of Montana seems timeless, yet its setting in the early 1950s gives us a glimpse of a little-studied, changing, postwar West.”—Mary Murphy, coeditor of Montana Legacy: Essays on History, People, and Place
“Liberty’s memoir is a wonderful complement to studies of rural schools and calls attention to the continued legacy of her time as a horseback schoolmarm.”—Pacific Northwest Quarterly