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Schoolteacher in Old Alaska: Story of Hannah Breece (Vintage Vintage) [Paperback]

Hannah Breece , Jane Jacobs
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

28 Aug 1997 Vintage Vintage
When Hannah Breece came to Alaska in 1904, it was a remote lawless wilderness of prospectors, murderous bootleggers, tribal chiefs, and Russian priests.  She spent fourteen years educating Athabascans, Aleuts, Inuits, and Russians with the stubborn generosity of a born teacher and the clarity of an original and independent mind.  Jane Jacobs, Hannah's great-niece, here offers an historical context to Breece's remarkable eyewitness account, filling in the narrative gaps, but always allowing the original words to ring clearly.  It is more than an adventure story:  it is a powerful work of women's history that provides important--and, at times, unsettling--insights into the unexamined assumptions and attitudes that governed white settler's behavior toward native communities at the turn of the century.  

"An unforgettable...story of a remarkable woman who lived a heroic life."--The New York Times

Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; 1st Vintage Books Ed edition (28 Aug 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679776338
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679776338
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 13 x 20.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,812,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
When Uncle Sam sent me to Alaska in 1904, the land where I was to spend the next fourteen years was still in many ways almost as Russian as American, although we had owned it since 1867. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great! 31 Oct 2003
Format:Paperback
In 1904, Hannah Breece (1859-1940), was recruited by the Department of the Interior to teach in Alaska. Alaska at that time was quite different than today. Preferring to work in poorer, more backward areas, she saw a side of Alaska that does not normally appear in the history books. This is Hannah stories, as told by her, and edited by Jane Jacobs.
This is a really great story. I found its depiction of life in 1904+ Alaska to be quite enthralling; Hannah certainly found her way into many fascinating adventures. The book shows life in 1904+ Alaska, as lived by the common people, including dealing with wild animals, sled dogs, fish famines, earthquakes, racism at many levels, and so much more.
All I can say is that Hannah Breece must have been a formidable woman. I have never said this before of a book, but I actually felt honored to be able to look in at Hannahļ¿½s life. I highly recommend this book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Hannah's story pictures a woman, no longer young, but wonderfully energetic, enthusiastic about her work as a teacher in a remote and frigid land. Her ingenuity in teaching methods, survival techniques, and inspiring the love and respect of her students and their parents is matchless. Seldom has anyone accomplished so much with so little. An excellent book--an excellent woman who compares quite favorably with two other "amazons"--Eleanor Roosevelt and Isak Dineson who were more or less contemporaries.
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Format:Hardcover
I prefer true stories, and this to me way surpasses the sort of concocted magic and adventure of a Harry Potter type book.
It's a very elevating tale too. There is controversy, with hindsight, expressed in the introduction and later, (by Jane Jacobs) - should she have taught natives at all or should Uncle Sam have left well alone.
Personally I think some Amercians were a bad influence, or should I say greedy, weak, hedonistic and lousy, and some, like Hannah Breece weren't. I came out truly admiring her awesome and formidable character.
She has an astonishing sense of humour, and I found myself laughing in amazement at it, given the circumstances in which she found it. There is also a beautiful sense of humility, to her place in the scheme of things, which many Americans never seem to express. (or experience.)
This is 1 of my favourite books ever. It is usually matter of fact but there are here and there the odd poetic and fanciful turns of phrase or descriptions, which I loved.
A book to treasure.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting and Real 4 Oct 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
A joy to read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting history, great story 19 Aug 2000
By R. Peterson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Subtitled, 'The Story of Hannah Breece', Jacobs has gathered her aunt's journals and diaries, as well as US government data relating to Alaska during the years 1904-1917 and has written a fascinating history. Hannah Breece served as a US government funded public school teacher in a number of remote sites in the then newly admitted state of Alaska. Her students were Aleuts, Eskimos, Russians, and children of other more obscure nationalities and ethnicities. Although Breece tells her own story in a less passionate, emotional voice, the story itself, is a powerful one. This is a biography of a single woman in her forties and fifties, thousands of miles from her family in Pennsylvania, teaching native peoples, not only English and math and science, but gardening, sewing, cooking, and a variety of other more domestic skills. Her tales of the extreme weather, the isolation, the conflicts and discrimination between the different ethnic groups, and of her travel, which took place from the Kodiak Islands, to Wrangell, to Fort Yukon, are astonishing and provide an illuminating glimpse of life in a different time, and in a far-away place. In the last quarter of the book the author, Breece's niece, brings together some of the historical data that Breece leaves unmentioned in her journals. We learn more about the US government constraints, policies, and employees all functioning or not at the time.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A glimpse of old Alaska 5 Oct 2001
By "jojonono" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
An excellent story with plenty of meat. Hannah Breece is a woman both of her time and ahead of her time. This book, although covering the early 1900's, really tells of a time when the balance and control of Alaska was switching from Russian influenced culture to American influenced culture. It is interesting to see that what was "correct" then is now "incorrect" and reminds the reader that values and judgements are culturally bound.
The action of the book takes place over most of the major regions of the state including the gulf coast, the interior and the southeast.
Jane Jacobs the editor did an excellent job of organizing and illuminating Hannah Breece's story. Without her careful introductions the story would have not had quite the same postive impact.
This book is largely alone in covering the topic of teaching in the early 1900's. For those of you interested in the early history of teaching in English in Alaska then this is your book.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting tale.by a courageous woman of unbelievable enduranc 24 Jun 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Hannah's story pictures a woman, no longer young, but wonderfully energetic, enthusiastic about her work as a teacher in a remote and frigid land. Her ingenuity in teaching methods, survival techniques, and inspiring the love and respect of her students and their parents is matchless. Seldom has anyone accomplished so much with so little. An excellent book--an excellent woman who compares quite favorably with two other "amazons"--Eleanor Roosevelt and Isak Dineson who were more or less contemporaries.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Educational, inspirational, and refreshing 17 Mar 2001
By L. Kaufman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A factual memoir that relays much interesting Alaskan history through description of a school teacher's experience in small,remote villages at the turn of the last century(1904). Hannah Breece's motivation is inspirational;the day to day survival and travel challenges are thrillingly refreshing (try to imagine complaining about the hardships of your suburban day after the tales of adversities thanks to very humbling terrain, wildlife and US bureaucracy);the maps, photos, and profiles of the different types of Alaskan people are historic and truly educational.This book was great ...don't miss the forward, the puzzles, and the epilogue!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars She'll Walk You Through the Snow 1 Jun 2004
By SouthernBookConnoisseur - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I fell in love with Alaska as described by Hannah Breece. She told an amazing story of a time that is long gone. She also showed great restraint in not "telling tales" on those who were her contemporaries. Her niece, Jane Jacobs, who compiled and edited her memoirs, fills in the "gaps," after Miss Breece's personal story is complete. I recommend this book to lovers of history, Alaskan history, early American history, education history and those with a romantic notion of how the "good old days," really were.
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