What was it about dancing that bunched the bloomers of the busybodies a century ago? Yet, again, the “Out of the Past” column of the June 10, 2022 Winchester Star features an entry noting that 100 years ago, in 1922, Mrs. Clara White of Eminence, Kansas, had her teaching certification revoked by the state superintendent because “she permitted a dance to be held in the village school house.” Mrs. White claimed that a school was a perfectly legitimate place in which to hold a dance “outside of teaching hours.” Miss Lorraine Wooster, the state superintendent disagreed, stating that dancing “is particularly heinous in a school teacher, especially when the offense takes place within the very portals of the school.”
If there has ever been a busier body than Miss Lorraine Wooster of Kansas, I can’t think of who it might have been, but as it turns out, this was her downfall. According to Wikipedia, our girl Lorraine was the first female elected to statewide office in Kansas after being voted Kansas State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1918. She began her teaching career in a one-room school house at the age of 16 and by 1907 had established a publishing company in Chicago that cranked out the plethora of text books she was writing. Although she brought several improvements to Kansas schools, she was known for her “strict moral code” insisting that teachers not “smoke, drink, dance, or wear makeup.” (Most teachers I know today would disqualify themselves on one of these counts. At least one.) Reelected in 1920, she went down to defeat in 1922 “after controversially attempting to fire teachers in Cimmaron for attending a dance.”
Miss Wooster became a lawyer, eventually moved to Chicago in 1934, and died in 1953. Chicago hardly seems the place to which a moralist would move in the 1930s, but maybe she caught Shimmy Fever and turned over a looser, but happier leaf.
Of course, you know there had to be a bunch of junior busybodies racing one another to the Eminence telegraph office trying to be the first to wire Superintendent Wooster about Mrs. White’s deplorable behavior. Funny though. When you look up Eminence, KS on Wikipedia you find a one-sentence description: “Eminence is a ghost town in Finney County, Kansas, United States.” No wonder. Who would stay in a town where you can’t dance in the school house?
I think the lesson, one of which I’m sure Mrs. Clara White would approve, is clear: Be a dancer, not a busybody.