|Suzanne L. Bunkers
Diary tells of struggles triumphs of Iowa school teacher 'Tis better far to learn while we are young Than to wait till we get old for our learning is better than gold. This quote was an entry in Sarah Gillespie Huftalen's diary written on Jan. 1, 1877 when she was just 11 years old. Over the next 75 years she wrote more than 3500 manuscript pages documenting daily life as it had happened. Born in 1865 near Manchester, Iowa Sarah was a farm girl who became a respected country school and college teacher. She married a man older than either of her parents received a college degree later in life and was committed to both family and career.
Dr. Suzanne Bunkers professor of English at Mankato State University has turned the thoughts and words of Sarah into a book titled "All Will Yet Be Well": The Diary of Sarah Gillespie Huftalen 1873-1952 which was released in February by the University of Iowa Press. Bunkers edited Sarah's life-long diary following Sarah's life as it travels from the anonymity of everyday farm life as a child to sister wife teacher family historian and public figure. "I found Sarah’s diary" Bunkers said "while I was researching the diary of Emily Hawley Gillespie Sarah's mother. I was intrigued by the enormity of the journal along with the incredible amount of information on daily life and family interaction." Also a diarist Bunkers has previously edited "The Diary of Caroline Seabury 1854-1863." This book was published in 1991. Beginning in 1987 Bunkers spent part of her summers in Iowa City Iowa at the State Historical Society. Bunkers said that the many volumes of Sarah's diary were in excellent condition. Sarah was the family historian as she donated both hers and her mother's diary to the Iowa State Historical Society. Sarah seemed to fit the bill for Bunkers who is interested in the history of teaching and women in education. Between the ages of 18 and 70 Sarah taught Iowa farm children. She became interested in teacher education and returned to school for both her bachelor's and master's degrees. "Country kids need a good education" Sarah once said. "I was interested on her impact on generations of country-school kids" Bunkers noted. "It was fascinating to see the progress of education in her 52 years of teaching.' Part of Sarah's personal collection reflects the respect her students and colleagues had for her work in education. Her former students sent her pictures and letters. Sarah was also credited for bringing country school teachers into the Iowa State Teachers' Association. She founded the Rural Section and was its president for many years. Sarah's diary tells of her struggles with a verbally abusive father and brother and of her marriage against her family's wishes. Later in her career Sarah moved back to the family farm in Manchester and lived with her brother for the remainder of their lives. Several of her entries written later in life often wrote of the strain and difficulties between her and her brother Henry. "In her later years. Sarah and her brother re-enacted much of their parents' difficult relationship" said Bunkers. Yet Sarah kept a determined outlook and felt it was her duty to make a home for her bachelor brother Bunkers noted.
"She stuck it out. She had a reliance on God but I think that her attitude may have kept her in this situation" she added. “All Will Yet Be Well" something Sarah wrote in an entry a few years before she died reflects Sarah's feelings that although she had to endure these hardships she would somehow persevere.