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A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska: The Story of Hannah Breece [Paperback]

by Hannah Breece
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 28, 1997 0679776338 978-0679776338 1st Vintage Books Ed
When Hannah Breece came to Alaska in 1904, it was a remote lawless wilderness of prospectors, murderous bootleggers, tribal chiefs, and Russian priests.  She spent fourteen years educating Athabascans, Aleuts, Inuits, and Russians with the stubborn generosity of a born teacher and the clarity of an original and independent mind.  Jane Jacobs, Hannah's great-niece, here offers an historical context to Breece's remarkable eyewitness account, filling in the narrative gaps, but always allowing the original words to ring clearly.  It is more than an adventure story:  it is a powerful work of women's history that provides important--and, at times, unsettling--insights into the unexamined assumptions and attitudes that governed white settler's behavior toward native communities at the turn of the century.  

"An unforgettable...story of a remarkable woman who lived a heroic life."--The New York Times

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A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska: The Story of Hannah Breece + Tisha: The Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaska Wilderness + Mrs. Mike
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1904, Hannah Breece (1859-1940), an unmarried teacher, was selected by the Interior Department to run an Alaskan school located in the Kodiak Archipelago. For the next 14 years, Breece worked in a variety of remote settlements on the Alaskan frontier, where she taught native children (Aleuts, Kenais, Athabaskans, Eskimos) as well as some remaining Russian children (Russia owned Alaska prior to 1867). Jacobs, a writer (The Death and Life of American Cities) and Breece's grandniece, has skillfully edited her relative's memoir, which she shaped into a dramatic account after visiting the areas where Breece taught. Working in poor communities, Breece often provided her students with food in addition to innovative lessons in elementary-school subjects. Her adventures included dangerous encounters with forest fires and wild dogs. Although she typically expressed a condescending attitude toward native Alaskans and imposed her prohibitionist views on others, Breece's commitment to her students was sincere and enduring. Photos.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Hannah Breece was an extraordinary woman who traveled to Alaska when she was 45 years old and taught Aleuts, Kenais, Athabaskans, and Eskimos from 1904 to 1918. While other women planned their retirement, Breece scaled cliffs, outran forest fires, and traveled in kayaks. Her long skirts and petticoats never slowed her down. Breece's story depicts the early days in Alaska, when travel was difficult to perilous. She was radical in her teaching, believing education should be enjoyable and avoiding the strict discipline her colleagues employed. Her story reflects on other Alaskan pioneers, namely, Sheldon Jackson and Dr. Henry O. Schlaben. The editor, Breece's niece, visited where Breece taught and describes what the places look like today. Numerous photographs dot the volume, and the book is well indexed, with numerous notes. A welcome addition to the literature on early Alaskan teachers. Recommended for libraries with Alaskan or Pacific Northwest history collections.?Katherine Ellerton, Missouri Research & Education Network, Columbia
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Books Ed edition (January 28, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679776338
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679776338
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #562,133 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting history, great story August 19, 2000
Subtitled, 'The Story of Hannah Breece', Jacobs has gathered her aunt's journals and diaries, as well as US government data relating to Alaska during the years 1904-1917 and has written a fascinating history. Hannah Breece served as a US government funded public school teacher in a number of remote sites in the then newly admitted state of Alaska. Her students were Aleuts, Eskimos, Russians, and children of other more obscure nationalities and ethnicities. Although Breece tells her own story in a less passionate, emotional voice, the story itself, is a powerful one. This is a biography of a single woman in her forties and fifties, thousands of miles from her family in Pennsylvania, teaching native peoples, not only English and math and science, but gardening, sewing, cooking, and a variety of other more domestic skills. Her tales of the extreme weather, the isolation, the conflicts and discrimination between the different ethnic groups, and of her travel, which took place from the Kodiak Islands, to Wrangell, to Fort Yukon, are astonishing and provide an illuminating glimpse of life in a different time, and in a far-away place. In the last quarter of the book the author, Breece's niece, brings together some of the historical data that Breece leaves unmentioned in her journals. We learn more about the US government constraints, policies, and employees all functioning or not at the time.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A glimpse of old Alaska October 4, 2001
An excellent story with plenty of meat. Hannah Breece is a woman both of her time and ahead of her time. This book, although covering the early 1900's, really tells of a time when the balance and control of Alaska was switching from Russian influenced culture to American influenced culture. It is interesting to see that what was "correct" then is now "incorrect" and reminds the reader that values and judgements are culturally bound.
The action of the book takes place over most of the major regions of the state including the gulf coast, the interior and the southeast.
Jane Jacobs the editor did an excellent job of organizing and illuminating Hannah Breece's story. Without her careful introductions the story would have not had quite the same postive impact.
This book is largely alone in covering the topic of teaching in the early 1900's. For those of you interested in the early history of teaching in English in Alaska then this is your book.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Hannah's story pictures a woman, no longer young, but wonderfully energetic, enthusiastic about her work as a teacher in a remote and frigid land. Her ingenuity in teaching methods, survival techniques, and inspiring the love and respect of her students and their parents is matchless. Seldom has anyone accomplished so much with so little. An excellent book--an excellent woman who compares quite favorably with two other "amazons"--Eleanor Roosevelt and Isak Dineson who were more or less contemporaries.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Educational, inspirational, and refreshing March 16, 2001
A factual memoir that relays much interesting Alaskan history through description of a school teacher's experience in small,remote villages at the turn of the last century(1904). Hannah Breece's motivation is inspirational;the day to day survival and travel challenges are thrillingly refreshing (try to imagine complaining about the hardships of your suburban day after the tales of adversities thanks to very humbling terrain, wildlife and US bureaucracy);the maps, photos, and profiles of the different types of Alaskan people are historic and truly educational.This book was great ...don't miss the forward, the puzzles, and the epilogue!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars She'll Walk You Through the Snow June 1, 2004
I fell in love with Alaska as described by Hannah Breece. She told an amazing story of a time that is long gone. She also showed great restraint in not "telling tales" on those who were her contemporaries. Her niece, Jane Jacobs, who compiled and edited her memoirs, fills in the "gaps," after Miss Breece's personal story is complete. I recommend this book to lovers of history, Alaskan history, early American history, education history and those with a romantic notion of how the "good old days," really were.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great! August 22, 2013
In 1904, Hannah Breece (1859-1940), was recruited by the Department of the Interior to teach in Alaska. Alaska at that time was quite different than today. Preferring to work in poorer, more backward areas, she saw a side of Alaska that does not normally appear in the history books. This is Hannah stories, as told by her, and edited by Jane Jacobs.

This is a really great story. I found its depiction of life in 1904+ Alaska to be quite enthralling; Hannah certainly found her way into many fascinating adventures. The book shows life in 1904+ Alaska, as lived by the common people, including dealing with wild animals, sled dogs, fish famines, earthquakes, racism at many levels, and so much more.

All I can say is that Hannah Breece must have been a formidable woman. I have never said this before of a book, but I actually felt honored to be able to look in at Hannah's life. I highly recommend this book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alaska Narrative November 30, 2010
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This was a great read. The mind stayed engaged in the circumstance and time of the story. This book communicated very well. It kept you involved with the people as well as the events. Can't go wrong buying this book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Adventure of teaching school in remote communities in alaska
I chose this rating due to the travels in an unsettled part of the country . It explained the religious belief of the communities, hardships and duties of a teacher in the remote... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Dukie
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible reality in Alaska 100 years ago
This is an inspiring real story of a single woman in her 40's and 50's teaching and surviving in the very early 1900's in Alaska not long after we purchased it from Russia. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Steve Wilbraham
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read.
When you are looking for history the way it really was you don't want a "today" politically correct
interpretation. I think Ms Jacobs did an excellent job. Thanks!
Published 3 months ago by Mel
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read.
Well written and informative. What I expected in a book of this title. Lots of info on the people she met.
Published 14 months ago by Jeanne
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Stuff
I had borrowed and read this and fancied owning a copy.
It is far out. In fact she was a hardy creature.
Published 14 months ago by Alun
5.0 out of 5 stars Satisfied.
The book arrived on time. As it is about the area I lived in and where I taught the book is of great interest to me.
Published 15 months ago by Norman Aaberg
5.0 out of 5 stars love the book
came on time. great book. read it before we went to alaska. sorry for the late review. Happy New Year
Published 15 months ago by Elizabeth Randall
2.0 out of 5 stars Didn't like the book
I did not care for the book. Hannah Breece went into so much detail that I just got tired of reading. I would skip ahead in the book and still not seemed to miss anything.
Published 16 months ago by Cheryl Crandall
3.0 out of 5 stars A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska
I have mixed feelings about this book. While I feel that Hannah Breece, a schoolteacher in Alaska in the early 1900's did a remarkable job there I also feel that this book drug on... Read more
Published 23 months ago by M. Reynard
2.0 out of 5 stars Dry
I seem to be the fly in the ointment, but I found this book hard to read, and fairly dry. I was impressed with the power and authority teachers seemed to have in her day, but that... Read more
Published on November 12, 2010 by Joann Kuhn
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