|Mary Jo Brearley
Mary Jo Bradford did much that was heroic in her long lifetime, but I want to describe one endeavor in particular. Born and raised in Indiana, she was recruited by the superintendent of schools to go to Tulsa, Oklahoma to teach physical education (then called "physical culture") in 1918 when she was 20 years old. (Oklahoma became a state in 1907, but most of it had been Indian Territory until opened to settlement by others in the 1890s.) She married and remained in Tulsa.
After World War II she was teaching at Central High School when she became chairman of the salary committee of the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association. Teaching salaries in Tulsa had not increased with the general increase in prosperity. A thorough study of salaries and comparisons with similar school districts in other parts of the U.S. made this very clear. After over a year of effort these findings were presented to the school board with a request for salary increases and equal salaries for men and women. The school board resisted though it eventually granted a small increase. (Even so, a few years later schools in Oklahoma were censured for low salaries by the National Education Association.)
Bradford and the members of her committee were required to attend a special meeting of the school board. At this meeting each one of them, and they were all women, was called one at a time to meet with the Board who were all men. Each was told not to engage in such activity in the future and was given a special contract stating that they could be asked to resign any time. Each was also transferred to teach at a different and less desirable school than before.
Bradford and her committee were considered heroines by many teachers and many others who had observed all this. One of her admirers even provided a partial scholarship for me, her daughter, when I was attending The University of Tulsa.
Bradford went on to do much else that was pioneering and important, but this episode seems particularly notable.
"Mary Jo (Ogle)