Catholic Sisters ran public schools. In the 1800′s, many of our nation’s public schools (funded by city, county, or state) were run by Catholic sisters. This was true in the West and parts of New York, Massachusetts and the Southern states. They ran the schools, with an average wage of twelve dollars per month per sister (a low wage even at that time). The sisters taught the state-required subjects: writing, spelling, arithmetic, English (and in the West, also Spanish), geography, and United States history. They often also had private schools which met at night, and where they taught catechism, art, languages, music, drawing, philosophy, higher arithmetic, etc. With both spiritual and material advantages, this system remained in effect until there was too much anti-Catholic influence in each locality.
The Sisters of Charity ran the western public schools of Santa Fe, and those of Old Town and New Town Albuquerque. (The public school in Old Town was called “Our Lady of the Angels”!) Beginning in 1870, they also ran Public School Number One in Trinidad, Colorado Territory, along the Santa Fe Trail. These Sisters were the first to receive Number One teaching certificates when the territory held its first teachers’ public examination. The School Board of Trinidad called a meeting in 1892 to notify the sisters, regarding their religious habits, that “under no circumstances does the school board wish to lose your services, but we ask you to change their mode of dress.” One of the sisters, looking steadily at the Chairman, replied: “The Constitution of the United States gives me the same privilege to wear this mode of dress as it gives you to wear your trousers. Goodbye…”