Teacher Lorene Harrison: Alaska’s Cultural Pioneer

I love to share stories of courageous teachers who have earned a name for themselves as intrepid pioneers. One such teacher is Lorene Cuthberton Harrison, a music teacher and singer who ventured to Alaska while it was still a territory.

Lorene Cuthberton was born in March 7, 1905, in Sterling, Kansas. After her high school graduation in 1922, she enrolled in Sterling College in Kansas, where she majored in home economics. She earned her bachelor’s degree and her teaching certificate in 1928. She was 23 years old.

The same year she graduated, this pioneering lady traveled to Alaska Territory, where she became the first music teacher in Anchorage schools. She also taught courses in home economics, general science, and geography. When she arrived, Anchorage had only 2,500 residents and the high school had only six teachers. Her salary was $180 a month, compared to the $60 per month that her friends were paid as teachers in Kansas.

Two years after her arrival, the pioneer educator married Jack Harrison, a local railroad engineer. The couple had two daughters. While raising her children, Lorene continued to teach music and theater. She also continued to sing for others, performing at private and public events such as weddings and funerals. When World War II erupted, Lorene worked for the United Service Organizations (USO).

After her beloved husband passed away in 1968, Lorene opened her own boutique which she called Hat Box. The store sold clothing and hats that she personally designed. The former teacher ran her store for 30 years. She also launched herself into various cultural activities in Anchorage. She organized the United Choir of All Faiths, which was the forerunner of the Anchorage Community Chorus; she served as the first president of the Anchorage Concert Association; she was on the founding boards of the Anchorage Arts Council, the Anchorage Civic Opera, and the Anchorage Little Theatre, and she served as the director of the First Presbyterian Church Choir for 29 years. You can read more about Lorene’s amazing life

This amazing chalkboard champion passed away at the age of 100 in 2005 in Anchorage, Alaska, and was interred in the pioneer tract of the Anchorage Memorial Park. In 2009, Lorene Harrison was inducted into the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame. You can read more about this intrepid lady at the link AlaskaHistory.org. You can also purchase Mostly Music: The Biography of Alaskan Cultural Pioneer Lorene Harrison, which can be found on amazon.com.

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