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Quaker Conscience in the Classroom: The Mary S. McDowell Case Charles F. Howlett* Academic freedom in public schooling became a controversial issue for the first time during World War I. This story became the assignment of historian Howard K. Beale when he was commissioned by the American Historical Association to investigate wartime intolerance in education. Beale produced an important volume detailing the remarkable number of alleged attacks on the principle ofacademic freedom. His 1936 work, Are American Teachers Free?, speaks to the point: "The question of freedom and restraint of teachers vitally affects school children, the community, society itself, the future." Sadly, Beale wrote, not only teachers who openly opposed the warorhad formerly been known aspacifists, but "all who were suspected of not giving vigorous support to it, were subjected to local * Charles F. Howlett teaches Social Studies at Amityville High School in New York and is an Adjunct Professor of History at Adelphi University. 100Quaker History pressures, investigated, and made to give positive proof of their 'loyalty' to the war system" (17,22). Intimidation and oppression characterized American education during World War I, as teachers were under constant pressure to show their loyalty.' "It is time to read the riot act to some ofthese teachers," declared General Thomas Wingate ofthe New York City Board ofEducation (Beale, 24; School and Society 6 April 28, 1917, 495). Content with procedural regularity, the nation's courts were relatively silent as both teachers and students fell victim to Mars' discipline. In New York City, for example, "there were elaborate hearings, defense counsel, and all the paraphernalia of a trial, even though the decision was determined in advance by the hysteria of the men conducting the proceedings" (Beale, 33-34; Peterson & Fite, Chapter 10, passim). Three teachers from De Witt Clinton High School were suspended and then dismissed for questioning American military involvement (The Trial of Three Suspended Teachers, 1-15). Elementary school teachers from Brooklyn were either dismissed or suspended for opposing the draft, declaring conscientious objector status, or questioning the accuracy of stories about German atrocities. The Flushing Evening Journal, for instance, reported on December 27, 1917, that Brooklyn teacher Miss Fannie Ross was suspended for six months because "she had been found guilty ofopposing the draft and having used her influence against military enlistment." Gertrude Pignol, a Germanborn teacher in Ross' school was also reprimanded: ". . . the possession of a locket, engraved by her father and carrying the picture of the Kaiser's grandfather on one side and the cornflower on the other, was put in evidence as additional proofofher hostility to the U.S. cause" (Beale, 3435 ; Peterson & Fite, 109-10). During the war the issue ofconscience and academic freedom was rarely tested in the courts. Wartime hysteria intimidated individual dissent or protest. In most instances no records were kept because there was no court trial. Due process was accorded via a board ofeducation hearing. However, in the case of Mary Stone McDowell, a Quaker public school teacher in Brooklyn, New York, a transcript ofthe hearing and legal briefexists. This isthe firstknowncase in Americanjudicial history inwhich aclient, though unsuccessful, sought court relief involving the issue of pacifism and academic freedom. Who was Mary Stone McDowell? According to court records, newspaperaccounts , and abrieflaudatorybiography by AnnaL. Curtis, McDowell was a forty-two-year-old New York City school teacher. Born on March 22, 1876 in Jersey City, New Jersey, she was a birthright member of the New York Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends. Both her parents, Quaker Conscience in the Classroom101 Joseph Thompson McDowell, a merchant from New Jersey, and Annie Livingston Stone, daughter ofa Maryland farmer, were birthrightmembers of the Society of Friends as were most of her ancestors for generations (Curtis, passim; Respondent Brief, 7-8). From early childhood she accepted what peace historian Peter Brock refers to as "an institutional view of the wrongness ofwar and violence when held up to the Inner Light of Christ which shone within all men" (9). Her pacifism was forged from the view that, "in the grand crusade against evil. . . only inner spiritual weapons were consistent with the leadings of the Spirit. Unrighteousness must be cast down, but not with the weapons ofunrighteousness" (Brock...


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