Olive Mann Isbell: The Chalkboard Champion of Mission Santa Clara

9781609496753_7b4ce5298022970d448371e911f0d532[1][1]A little-known figure in California history is educator Olive Mann Isbell, who is credited as being the first teacher in California. In 1846, when Olive was only 22 years old, she and her husband, Dr. Isaac Isbell, traveled west by wagon train. The territory had recently been severed from Mexico, and the Isbells arrived just as the Mexican army was poised to attack in an attempt to reclaim the land.

Olive and over two hundred American women and children were barricaded inside Mission Santa Clara de Asis, while the men were quickly drafted to defend the dilapidated fort. Inside the shelter, Olive, sensing the anxiety of the children, decided to organize a school to occupy their attention. The newly-arrived pioneer was well-suited to this work, being the niece of the famous educator Horace Mann and an experienced teacher from her home state of Ohio. When  Mexico finally laid down their arms and signed a truce with the United States on January 3, 1847, Olive’s Santa Clara Mission School became recognized as the first American school on California soil.

You can read more about this amazing educator in Women Trailblazers of California: Pioneers to the Present, available on amazon.