Obituary - Maisie Linstead

22nd October 2010 at 01:00


Staffrooms and newspapers often abound with the received wisdom that teachers die early because of the stress and strain of the job. But for Maisie Linstead, who died recently at the age of 107, a career devoted to the primary classroom has contributed to a very long and healthy life.

Working with the under sevens for more than 40 years provided the kind of reward needed to withstand the many hardships that a woman born more than a century ago had to face.

Mrs Linstead endured the horrors of two World Wars, the glaring gender inequality of the time and the challenges of raising children, but never gave up her vocation of teaching pupils to read and write.

Born in Sheffield in 1903, while King Edward VII was still on the throne, Mrs Linstead (nee Parkin) attended the Central Schools until 1919, before moving on to its special sixth-form centre, designed to prepare pupils who wanted to become teachers.

At 21, she matriculated in English composition and literature, English history, maths, French, geography and botany. Following in her mother's footsteps, she was accepted on to a teacher training course in London.

As one of the first teacher training colleges, St Katherine's in Tottenham prepared Mrs Linstead for her first job at Neepsend Primary in Sheffield, where she started in 1923.

But after nine happy years, she was to face a challenge. After marrying Charles Linstead in 1932, she was told that married women could not work as teachers in Sheffield and she would have to leave her job. But Maisie was not deterred. Rather than give up her vocation for a life of domestic drudgery, she simply upped sticks and found a job in more forward-thinking Rotherham, which did not have the rule.

It meant a long eight-mile trip aboard the rattling trolley-buses of the era, but it was a small price to pay to continue. Her prime satisfaction from her job was watching the progress of pupils in reading and writing, but relatives say she was also strong on artwork, played the piano and had a passion for producing school plays.

Before the war, she was a big figure on the amateur dramatics scene in the area, and loved nothing more than a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon to see a Shakespeare play.

As a member of the Sheffield Shakespeare Players, she interpreted the roles of Katherina in The Taming of the Shrew and Maria in Twelfth Night. Her very first role was as early as 1918, aged 15, when she had a role performing extracts from A Midsummer Night's Dream, in aid of wounded soldiers.

But more excitement and upset was soon to come in Maisie's life, and the Rotherham job was not to last for long. She gave birth to her first son Roger in 1935, and another boy, David, followed in 1937. She initially stayed off work to care for them, but when the air raid sirens began to wail in 1940, women were called back into the schools. With the men away at war, women were vital on the home front to educate the next generation, and she took a job at St Matthias school in Sheffield.

Effectively a single parent, she had the additional pressure of coping with classes of 50 or 60, at the same time as dealing with the demands of running a home without help.

A job at Heeley Bank School was to follow, and she taught continuously until 1963, when she gave up work briefly to look after her husband Charles before he died. She finished her career at Marlcliffe before retiring for good in 1966. She then invested her energies into the Christian Science Church in Sheffield, where she became a reader.

Her devotion to the church was much the same as her devotion to the hundreds of children she taught over her career. Her sense of duty - to her family, the schools she taught in and the church - was immense. Without a doubt it contributed to a long and fulfilling life.

Maisie leaves behind her two sons and five grandchildren.

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