Cassia McTavish worked without compensation for her first five years because there was no money to pay her. The school board was close to bankruptcy until it was saved by extra tax dollars in 1919.
Over the years, It was difficult to hire male teachers because the community was isolated and male teachers had an obligation to provide for their families. As a result, young, single female teachers often held these positions. They were usually provided with the teacherage or some other form of accommodations - sometimes a room in a student's family's house. The wages were minor, but the ladies were able to get by on those means at the time. The Grey Nuns volunteered to staff the Catholic schools. The women worked hard, but were paid little. The nuns, including principals, earned $100 a month, which they dutifully returned to the St. John's Separate School District.
By 1954, the salary was up to $2300, with an extra $800 if the teacher held a university degree, a further $100 for a second degree, and a small bonus for any additional courses, as well as a housing allowance of $150... per annum!
P2007.39.2: Teachers Lola Isert and Margaret Mercier in front of St. John's, circa 1940
McMurray, Alberta, Canada
Fort McMurray Historical Society