The Jessie Thatcher Bost Collection: Home
If "you and I could have chosen when to exist, I think there could have been no more inspiring time than now," Jessie said in her commencement address, "Dawning of the Twentieth Century," to her two fellow graduates and the others present.
She believed education held the key to independence and opportunity and spent most of her life as a teacher in Oklahoma public schools — putting her teaching career on hold long enough to raise her two sons and two daughters.
Jessie accomplished many "firsts" during her life. Besides being OSU's first female graduate, she also served as the first president of both the Alumni Association and the Half-Century Club. In 1925, OSU named its first women's dormitory in her honor. (Jessie would have graduated a year earlier in OAMC's first class, except typhoid fever caused her to miss a year of school.) In 1963, she died at the age of 88.
The Good Old Days
When OAMC opened its doors in 1891, Jessie and her sister Jennie were among the 40 or so students who enrolled in the college preparatory classes.
Because the ratio of men and women was practically equal at first, female contributions to the school have been significant throughout its history, says retired professor of economics Pauline Kopecky in her Centennial Histories series book, Equal Opportunity.
"In the early days, no attempts were made to distinguish the curriculum for the sexes," Kopecky says. "All women took agricultural and chemistry classes with the men," and all learned to tend crops and care for livestock on the college farm.
Jessie's essays usually dealt with the general subjects of education and a woman's place in the world. "She doesn't have a place behind the stove in her manuscripts," says her son Armon Bost, a 1933 business graduate who later served as an OSU regent from 1969-1977. "I know later in life she used to really be adamant about the fact that she couldn't vote — no women's suffrage — and to my father's despair she would often lament that women weren't allowed to vote. Finally they were.
"And it was interesting because he was a Democrat and she became a Republican."
Following graduation, Jessie taught in Stillwater public schools for $40 a month for nearly a decade, marrying former OAMC classmate Henry Bost in 1902. In 1907 the couple homesteaded in western Oklahoma, then moved to Alva in 1908. Jessie put her teaching career on hold until her four children were grown.
When Jessie retired after nearly 20 years in the Cleveland schools, OSU President Dr. Henry G. Bennett honored her as "Oklahoma's first woman of education."
"I like to think of her as a symbol of all that womenhood [sic], womanly institutions and womanly courage have brought to our civilization," Bennett said. [All text, with minor corrections, taken from "Jessie Thatcher: A Woman of Many 'Firsts,'" OSU Magazine, Spring 1997.]