Ireson, Adeline M.
(b. June 7, 1823, d. ca. 1903)
Cambridge schoolteacher; Member of first class of first teacher-training school
Adeline M. Ireson was the daughter of Mary and Samuel Ireson. At the age of sixteen, she passed an examination to attend the first state funded teacher training school in the nation, the Normal School of Lexington, as a member of its first class of 1839, graduating with twenty-five other young women in 1840. Their principal and teacher was a Unitarian minister, Rev. Cyrus Peirce who was supported by his wife, Harriet Peirce. A model school for children was set up in Lexington and the young teachers took turns teaching in the school. They were examined at the end of their training by Horace Mann ((then actively working for the initiation of teacher training schools and public school education in Massachusetts) and Samuel Gridley Howe who also attended their graduation ceremony. (Another member of this class was Hannah Damon of West Cambridge (now Arlington) the daughter of a Unitarian minister. She served as class secretary, often wrote poetry and lyrics for the alumnae celebrations. She taught for a while in Worcester and Boston and died in 1901).
In the published records of the First Class of the Normal School of Lexington (1839) to which Adeline Ireson belonged, she is remembered from her school days as “Addie Ireson always at hand to do one a kindness” She began to teach in Cambridge in 1842. For the Seventh meeting of the class in 1856, Ireson addressed the class arguing that unmarried women could accomplish as much and keep their hearts as fresh and loving as their married friends.
Adeline Ireson was considered by her classmates to be their most distinguished member, certainly the most dedicated teacher. She was honored for her fifty years of teaching in the Washington Grammar School in Cambridge at a large meeting held at Sanders Theater July 1, 1892. Among the tributes was a letter from the governor of the Commonwealth, William Russell, who had been one of her pupils as was his son, and another letter was sent from Alice Freeman Palmer. Ireson was also awarded a yearly sum of $129, subscribed to by one hundred of her neighbors and former pupils including the mayor of the city and the Harvard University president. She was still alive (although ill and bedridden) in 1902. An appendix to a history of the first class of the Lexington Normal School recounts the ceremony on her retirement. In celebration of its 150th anniversary, The Framingham State College, an outgrowth of Lexington Normal, posted a reproduction of a flowered dress of Adeline Ireson from 1839 and included a history of the early school. The Historical Commission holds a silhouette of her as a young woman.
References: ”Miss Ireson’s Fifty Years of Service”. Records of the First Class of the First State Normal School of Lexington Boston, 1903 pp; 204-208; Files of the Historical Commission, Cambridge MA; 150th commemoration of Framingham State College, http://www.framingham.edu/150th/items.htm
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Women's Heritage Project
March 27, 2007