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A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska: The Story of Hannah Breece
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A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska: The Story of Hannah Breece

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  147 ratings  ·  29 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 302 pages
Published January 28th 1997 by Vintage (first published 1995)
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Joan Colby
A fascinatingly detailed account of Breece’s experience as a teacher in Alaska from 1904 to 1917. She was 45 with over 20 years experience as a teacher, some of it at Indian reservations, when she embarked on her Alaskan duties. Breece cheerfully endured many hardships and she details her lifestyle and that of the Indians, Aleuts and Eskimos. While she harbored the common opinions of her time about the role of the white man in “civilizing” the less fortunate races, her attitude toward the native ...more
After making the mistake of NOT taking a book with me on my flight to Alaska, I was determined to have one for the trip back. I started reading another Alaskan memoir from the bookshelves at a B&B, but the bookstore did not have that memoir so I opted for this one. It ended up being a pretty fun read and a good way to learn more about Alaska. I was ready for a new, light genre and this fit the bill.

Hannah Breece was an experienced schoolteacher who felt called to go to the native peoples of
I love books about people who brave the unthinkable in order to help others. This is an oldie, but goodie. This is a story about a lady who often chose hard assignments to teach in godforsaken areas of Alaska because of the need of the children.
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 a little bit and that she was a bit too prideful.

Hannah moves to Alaska on a teaching assignment to educate the "native peoples" there and also improve living conditions in the villages. She actually teaches in several different villages and travels around quite a bit. She has some experiences with the weather and anim
Everyone should be so lucky as to have a friend who owns a bookshop. I wander in now and then and as soon as she sees me she gets this little twinkle in her eye and darts behind the counter. When she emerges it is to plop a stack of books onto the counter that she knows will please me. I tell you, no one knows me like that woman. This book, A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska: The story of Hannah Breece was one such book. It is an autobiography but then is followed by a lengthy commentary by her great ...more
John Hanscom
Miss Breece taught school in a time where doctrines such as "manifold destiny" and "white man's burden," now called the "doctrine of discovery" and generally repudiated, was prevalent. This book was great when it showed how people lived and how Miss Breece and the Native communities she served helped each other. It was sad, however, when some of the doctrines of the time, such as the Native people being uncivilized and backward, and how they needed to be "civilized," came through. That, however, ...more
Quite enjoyed this very readable memoir by the very spunky and principled teacher in early 1900s Alaska. The book is edited and commented upon by the equally spunky and principled Jane Jacobs, her great niece.
I picked up a copy of this book while on vacation in Alaska and really enjoyed it. I'm going to school to be a teacher and it was very interesting to me to read this memoir of a prohibition era teacher who established schools in remote parts of Alaska. Her stories of the difficulties she encountered are unique and often humorous. Some of her ideals might be a little off-putting to certain readers (she was very much for prohibition and a lot of her goals included helping the natives becoming more ...more
Isabel Hogue
A middle aged lady experiences amazing hardships in backwoods Alaska - but to her it's all in a day's work.
This is another of Terri's excellent pics. An autobiography of an early 20th century spinster schoolteacher who agrees to travel to Alaska to teach Russian, Inuit and English speaking children in remote areas. Tales of adventure and tragedy, including a pertussis (whooping cough)outbreak that wipes out ALL of the children under 3 in that area. For some younger families, this was all of thier children. Wonderful story. I really liked it.
Aug 13, 2007 Zein rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: alaskaphiles
Beech makes anthropology and colonialism fun!

On a serious note, the selling point of this book is the story of a woman on the frontier -- a story seldom told. Beech, a schoolteacher sent to Alaska to improve native schools, starts her journey believing wholeheartedly in the good of Uncle Sam. As the book goes on she starts to realize that perhaps some of the native ways are better than what she has to offer.
Really enjoyed the actual memoir portion of this book which reported Hannah's experiences from her notes. Latter portion of the book related and compared her story to actual history which would have been o.k. had the author not extensively editorialized. rating would have been 4 stars for the actual memoir but only 1 for the commentary.
This book was truly fascinating! Reading about Hannah's experiences and the problems she faced and how she solved them, during the time period of the early 1900's is so amazing. I know it really resonated with me since I have visited some of the areas in Alaska that she speaks about.
Fascinating story of a 40+ year old school teacher who volunteered to go to Alaska in 1934 to teach in native Alaskan villages. I can't even imagine having that kind of fortitude and yearning for adventure in that day and age. Very good writing, descriptive, informational. Enjoyed.
The story of a truly courageous woman who braved Alaska in the 1900's to be a government school teacher. Respectful of the natives customs but determined to improve their lives, she traveled hundreds of miles, setting up schools wherever she was needed. A great non-fiction read.
This is my all time favorite "alaska" book. It's a true story. It's very well written--easy to understand and poetic at times. It also seems authentic to the views of the time--something that's not PC today, but I like it when we don't pretend that the past wasn't different.
Denise DeRocher
A wonderful story about a courageous, intelligent woman at the turn of the twentieth century going off to Alaska to teach Native children. Lots of colorful descriptions of Alaska and the lives lived "back then"!
Dixie Diamond
Despite Ms. Breece's cultural prejudices (in which she was hardly alone considering the time and place), this is a very interesting and informative book.
Dec 19, 2007 Doris rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to be inspired
Shelves: memoir
This is a wonderful book! An amazing portrait (memoir) of an ordinary women who in mid life goes to the remotest areas of Alaska to teach. What courage!
Annie Michelle
really enjoyed the book, it was more historical fact than story which I would have liked a little better
A very interesting and enjoyable read about an amazing woman. She made me feel very lazy and pampered.
Ami Stearns
Memoirs of a Pennsylvania schoolteacher in the wilds of Alaska at the turn of the century.
Good read about teaching (and surviving) in Alaska at the turn of the last century.
I found this very interesting. I admire her tenacity to help people have an education
Lee Savino
If you love all the Alaska shows on cable, you'll enjoy this book too!
Picked this up in Alaska. Enjoyable, interesting and memorable.
Very interesting account and really well researched.
Carrie Pirmann
American history,education
I work with the Nondalton fire crews and I learned that Billy Trefon's dad was the chief of the village after Chief Zaukar. This was a very good book!
Bloomreader marked it as to-read
Oct 27, 2014
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