REID (Reed, Read), GEORGINA STANLEY (Riches), teacher; b. 10 Feb. 1842 in Hull, England, daughter of Mary Wiseman and John Reid, a tailor; m. 19 Oct. 1865 Richard Henry Riches in Port Hope, Upper Canada, and they had two sons; d. 24 Feb. 1915 in Toronto.
Georgina Reid immigrated to Canada with her parents, settling in Port Hope. In 1860 she entered the Toronto Normal School, from which she graduated with a second-class certificate. She then taught privately at her home in Port Hope, evidently with one other teacher. In 1865 she married 40-year-old R. H. Riches of Simcoe County, who had a number of children from a previous marriage. By 1871 they had located in Toronto, where they operated a boarding-house on Adelaide Street West. Sometime after the birth of Georgina’s second son in July 1872, Richard left her, but she continued to run the boarding-house.
In September 1875 Georgina joined the Toronto Public School Board and was appointed to teach the fifth division at Niagara Street School. A teacher of some merit, she was promoted to the junior second-book class at Niagara (1876), the senior second-book class at George Street School (1877), and the Orphans’ Home school (1878). Some indication of her ability is found in the petition submitted in 1878 by 37 persons that she be reappointed to Niagara Street School. Four years later she brought 24 children from the Orphans’ Home before the convention of the Ontario Educational Association for a musical demonstration.
On 6 Sept. 1882 Riches was appointed principal of Palace Street School, at the corner of Front and Cherry streets. The appointment immediately generated controversy. A number of female teachers with higher certificates protested “ill-judged favoritism.” In addition, two petitions were presented, one froth the ratepayers of St Lawrence Ward and the other from the parents of children attending the school, against a female head. At the same time, 97 other residents and ratepayers expressed thanks for Riches’s appointment. Her selection was ruled unconstitutional, however, when it was discovered that she would be head of a school with a senior third-book class, contrary to board policy that “no teacher shall be promoted to a higher position than that of teacher of the Junior Third Book Class unless they hold a First Class Certificate.” One of the most vocal board members, Toronto merchant William Lamb, is said to have stated that it was an “outrage” for her to receive $750 a year; his wife, when she had taught, got only $250. Riches reportedly replied, tartly, that “perhaps it was all she was worth.” The issue was resolved on 18 October when, on the authority of inspector James Laughlin Hughes*, Palace Street School was reclassified as a junior third-book school and Riches, whose salary in 1881 had been $475, was reinstated as principal at a salary of $650.
Tradition has it that Riches was the first female principal in Toronto’s public schools and the first female principal there to be paid a man’s salary. Neither claim is warranted. The school board had 186 teachers and principals on staff in 1882. Most of the 27 men were earning between $850 and $1,100; the majority of the 159 women were receiving between $350 and $500. The highest paid of them, and a principal since 1876, Miss Charlotte Madeline Churchill, was paid $700 in 1882, $50 more than Riches. By the time of Riches’s retirement, a female teacher was making, on average, only 48 per cent of a male teacher’s salary.
The issue of salaries and sex had arisen in January 1882, when an increase of $25 a year was voted to the female teachers. A number of them petitioned for more, but in March the board invited those who did not agree with the pay schedule to resign. In Toronto, as in other Ontario centres, school trustees recognized that savings could be achieved by hiring a predominantly female teaching force. Typically, men governed as superintendents, trustees, and headmasters, and women were assistant teachers. Riches rose above this situation, but she does not seem to have been involved in the women teachers’ association formed in 1885, a circumstance that may have resulted from her obligations as a single parent or from professional differences reflected by her grateful acceptance of the pay raise in 1882. Whatever the reason, she was not alone, since only about half of the eligible women were members of the association.
In 1887 Georgina Riches became principal of Sackville Street School, which replaced Palace Street. She remained there until her retirement in 1912; she had served the public school board for 37 1/2 years. After suffering from rheumatism for three years, she died at her home at 453 Dovercourt Road on 24 Feb. 1915.
AO, RG 2-12, box 33; RG 2-114, 27 Nov. 1912; RG 22-305, no.29930; RG 80-2-0-29, no.18251. NA, RG 31, C l, 1871, Toronto, St Andrew’s Ward, div.2: 12 (mfm. at AO). Toronto Board of Education, Records, Arch., and Museum, Hist. Coll., Toronto Board of Education, minutes, 1882; Vert. files, biog., Georgina Riches. Centennial story: the Board of Education for the city of Toronto, 1850–1950, ed. E. A. Hardy and H. M. Cochrane (Toronto, 1950). Directory, Toronto, 1873–83. E. C. Guillet, In the cause of education: centennial history of the Ontario Educational Association, 1861–1960 (Toronto, 1960). Alison Prentice, “‘Friendly atoms in chemistry’: women and men at Normal School in mid-nineteenth-century Toronto,” in Old Ontario: essays in honour of J. M. S. Careless, ed. David Keane and Colin Read (Toronto, 1990), 285–317; “Themes in the early history of the Women Teachers’ Association of Toronto,” in Women’s paid and unpaid work: historical and contemporary perspectives, ed. Paula Bourne (Toronto, 1985), 97–121. Thomas Riches of Barningham, Norfolk, England, and descendants, 1793–1978, comp. G. H. Riches (Toronto, 1978). Toronto Public School Board, Annual report, 1876–1903, continued as Toronto Board of Education, 1904–12. Women who taught: perspectives on the history of women and teaching, ed. Alison Prentice and M. R. Theobald (Toronto, 1991).