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In rural communities of the past, particularly on the frontier, there would often not be enough children of different ages in the area to justify a school separated by grades, and insufficiently fast transportation to bring children from a wide area together every schoolday. So there would be a one-room schoolhouse, with a grand total of one teacher (usually female) presiding over a class of children of all ages and scholastic ability. That's the Schoolmarm.

Generally, a child would attend the one-room schoolhouse from early elementary age through the minimum dropout age required by law; those seeking further education would have to go to a larger community's boarding school.

In fiction, a schoolmarm will tend to be portrayed as rather prim and proper, and will have the best diction in town. This tended to be true in RealLife as well, since most communities had [[ContractualPurity strict moral and behavioral requirements]] in the contracts for their teachers. In many school districts, teachers had to be single, and any "courtship" would raise fears that [[QuittingToGetMarried the town would lose its schoolmarm]]. Nevertheless, the Schoolmarm is a frequent choice for female love interest in a {{Western}} as she'll be [[MadonnaWhoreComplex the only single woman around who isn't]] [[HookerWithAHeartOfGold in the entertainment industry]]. As an instructor in the arts of civilization, she also made a good {{Foil}} to a wild and footloose hero.

In male viewer-oriented stories, the schoolmarm tends to be young and pretty--sometimes [[MsFanservice suspiciously so]]. In stories from the schoolmarm's point of view, she may be a bit older and [[GenericCuteness somewhat plain-looking]], to make her eventual romantic involvement that much sweeter. If the story is from the children's point of view, [[MaidenAunt the schoolmarm will often be a hatchet-faced spinster]], who's [[ApronMatron not afraid of using a switch on misbehaving youths, for loose values of "misbehaving."]]

Since schoolteachers were usually from out of town, they would often board with the different families of their students in turn over the course of the school year. In fiction, this might be an awkward situation, the beginning of a romance with an adult member of the family, the discovery of a [[BigBrotherMentor Big Sister Mentor]] for a younger member, or otherwise played for drama.

This is still TruthInTelevision today in many regions of the world, where single-room schools still exist. For example, this isn't unheard of in Japan today; a combination of urbanization ''and'' declining birth rate means children are rare sight in rural areas. Since there are few children, schools are merged or just plain shut down, and those that remain are often run by a handful of teachers -- in rare cases, by [[TwoTeacherSchool one or two schoolmarms]]. In Russia, the situation is similar, except the rural areas are much larger and much more sparsely settled; one-room schools, called ''selskaya malokomplektnaya shkola'' (rural small-class school) never actually went out of style during the Soviet period, and are only in more demand today.

The SpearCounterpart was a "schoolmaster" ([[DoubleStandard who WAS expected to be, or become, a family man]]). See also TwoTeacherSchool.


[[folder:{{Anime}} and {{Manga}}]]
* [[spoiler:Yoko Littner]] from ''Anime/TengenToppaGurrenLagann'' takes this as a job after the TimeSkip.
* To a degree, Mari Nikaido from ''Manga/{{Kinnikuman}}''.
* Kazuho from ''Manga/NonNonBiyori'', who's always portrayed sleeping (sometimes to the point of not showing up at all), chilling with the students... or exploiting ''her'' students to work on her rice fields. [[SenseiChan She's also the elder sister of Renge, who is the youngest student in school]].

[[folder: Comic Books]]
* The teacher in the [[ComicBook/MonicasGang Chuck Billy]] stories.

* Clara Clayton in ''Film/BackToTheFuturePartIII'', who of course becomes the LoveInterest of Doc Brown.
* ''Film/ButchCassidyAndTheSundanceKid'': Etta Place, Sundance's woman, is a schoolmarm who abandons her duties to go to South America with them.
* ''Film/CatBallou''[='s=] title character is a schoolmarm turned {{Outlaw}}.
* ''Film/TheGunfighter'' has the schoolmarm as the secret wife of the lead.
* ''Film/BlazingSaddles'' had what can only be termed a subversion.
-->'''Schoolmarm:''' To the honorable William J. [=LePetomaine=], Governor...
-->'''Crowd:''' Louder! We can't hear you!
-->'''Schoolmarm''': I am sorry, [[UnaccustomedAsIAmToPublicSpeaking I'm not used to public speaking]]. [[LargeHam WE THE WHITE, GODFEARING CITIZENS OF ROCK RIDGE]] wish to express our '''extreme''' displeasure with [[MagicalNegro your choice]] of sheriff. Please remove him immediately! The fact that you have sent him here just goes to prove that you are the leading [[PrecisionFStrike asshole]] in the state!
* Ms. Crabtree from ''Film/TheLittleRascals'' shorts.
* In ''Film/RustlersRhapsody'', a "pretty but somehow asexual young schoolmarm" is one of the features found in every single western town which hero Rex O'Herlihan has visited.
* Creator/MichaelHaneke's ''Film/TheWhiteRibbon'' has a RareMaleExample as one of the few sympathetic characters.
* Creator/StephaneAudran's character in ''Film/LeBoucher''. she runs and lives above the village school in a remote but scenic corner of France. She is loved and respected by pupils and parents alike. Then the wife of her assistant teacher is brutally murdered, forcing her to run the school alone...
* At the end of ''Film/MyDarlingClementine'', Clementine decides to stay on in Tombstone as the new schoolmarm.
* ''Film/PetesDragon1977'' has a schoolmarm who is exceptionally quick to dish out harsh words and discipline. Unfortunately for protagonist Pete, an outsider boy fleeing from slavery, he is [[CassandraTruth (understandably) disregarded]] when his protest that the disasters happening around him are not his own fault but due to his invisible dragon friend. When she escalates her punishment to beating him with a yardstick, the dragon roars viciously and [[CharacterShapedHole crashes through the school wall]] causing much panic and bringing even more unwanted attention to Pete (although stopping the schoolmarm bullying attitude as she is rendered practically speechless).
* Miss Birdwood in the 1989 film ''Film/GeorgesIsland'' is a prime example given her classroom and the way she dresses/talks. She even is a SadistTeacher, mainly to poor George's CassandraTruth.

* ''Literature/ABrothersPrice'' has Miss Skinner, a very typical schoolmarm, who taught Jerin's sisters, and occasionally came to the Whistler farm to give lessons to Jerin and his younger brothers. She's very prim and proper, telling Jerin to wear his veil when she meets him on a ship, and not to talk to strange women. (Jerin protest's that she's not a ''stranger'', she's his dear old teacher). She is also unmarried, but not due to any restrictions, it's just very [[GenderRarityValue hard to find a husband]]. When she meets Jerin, she tells him that she's going home to get married, having amassed enough wealth to be able to afford a husband - her motivation to become a teacher in the first place. To complete the stereotype, Jerin recalls having had a crush on her when he was younger.
* [[Literature/LittleHouseOnThePrairie Laura Ingalls]] is a schoolmarm in ''These Happy Golden Years''. Her description of what it was like is generally conceded to be fairly accurate, although the Brewster household may be dramatic license.
* ''Literature/{{Holes}}'' has a schoolmarm who [[spoiler:turns outlaw after her love interest is killed.]]
* Anne from ''Literature/AnneOfGreenGables'' goes to a one-room schoolhouse. The first teacher is male, then Miss Stacy becomes the schoolmarm. Later on, Anne herself takes on the role, and even while attending college takes temporary schoolmarm positions in the summer.
** Many of the characters did this while paying for college, including Gilbert Blythe. It becomes a plot point that he trades teaching positions with Anne to allow her to be closer to Green Gables.
** Creator/LMMontgomery's novels ''Literature/EmilyOfNewMoon'' also feature such characters, of both genders.
* ''Mandie and the Missing Schoolmarm'' by Lois Gladys Leppard, has the young heroine investigating a mystery that is ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin.
* The ''[[Literature/AmericanGirlsCollection American Girl]] Kirsten'' books have Miss Winston, who's nineteen -- same age as the oldest boy in the class. She stays with Kirsten's family for a while. (This was TruthInTelevision; many teachers, both male and female, were not able to afford their own homes, so they often stayed with their students' families, or other families in town, on a temporary basis.)
* Miss Read, the pseudonymous author/narrator of the ''FairacreAndThrushGreen'' novels, both {{Barsetshire}} settings, is the schoolmistress of a tiny two-room school in the village of Fairacre, and there's a similar school in Thrush Green.
* Literature/JaneEyre is a village schoolmistress for a short while (quite sensible as she'd previously been a governess- one of the few jobs acceptable to women of the landowner caste at the time); a slight variation as in her town, male and female children went to separate schools (seeing as we never meet her male counterpart, presumably St John, the local cleric, teaches the boys during the week)
* Nineteen-year-old Christy Huddleston from ''{{Literature/Christy}}'' is a city-bred young woman of an affluent Asheville family who is inspired to go teach school in an impoverished Appalachian village in 1912. Needless to say, it's nothing like she thought it would be, in both good ways and bad.

* ''Series/HeeHaw'': Minnie Pearl was the hapless schoolmarm in "The Schoolroom" segments, with her students always cracking jokes.
* ''Series/LittleHouseOnThePrairie'': In order Emma Beadle (Charlotte Stewart, 1974-1978), Alice Garvey (Heresha Parady, 1978-1979), Eliza Jane Wilder (Lucy Lee Flippin, 1979-1980), Laura Ingalls Wilder (Melissa Gilbert as the series' main protagonist, 1980-1982) and Etta Plum (Leslie Landon, 1982-1984). A few times throughout the series, Caroline Ingalls (Karen Grassle) would fill in as a substitute teacher, except when the plot called for someone else.
* Captain Gunpowder is sweet on the local school mistress in ''Series/WildBoys''.
* Seth Bullock's wife, who sets up the first schoolhouse in ''Series/{{Deadwood}}'', a sign of its improving circumstances.

* A TabletopGame/{{Munchkin}} set, ''The Good, the Bad and the Munchkin'', which was Western-themed, had a Sidekick card called Schoolmarm, whose "book learning" could [[BadassBookworm help you escape from a trap]].

* Miss Minerva in ''Theatre/TheGoldenApple''.

* Raine Sage of ''VideoGame/TalesOfSymphonia'' is fairly grumpy as one of these. Of course, when one of your students is [[BookDumb Lloyd Irving]], this may be justified.
* ''VideoGame/FreddyPharkasFrontierPharmacist'' had one of those whose last name even was Primm. However, she turns out to be the villain in the end.
* In the second generation of ''[[VideoGame/RuneFactory Rune Factory 2]]'', Mana becomes [[TwoTeacherSchool one of the only two teachers in the school built at the end of the first generation]]. How true she is to this trope depends on whether or not the first generation's player character married her.
* Keine Kamishirasawa of ''VideoGame/{{Touhou}}'' is generally portrayed like this in fanworks, usually to the younger youkai characters (though this goes against canon, where she says that she's only willing to teach humans). However, ''Forbidden Scrollery'' josses this portrayal since she's shown to teach at an elementary school with several other teachers.

* Rumiko Chie in ''VisualNovel/HigurashiWhenTheyCry'', being the only teacher at the school the main characters attend. Since the series takes place in the rural village of Hinamizawa, this isn't surprising.

* ''WebAnimation/HomestarRunner'': Marzipan is shown as a teacher at a "montessodium school" in the WebAnimation/StrongBadEmail "coloring"; given that her only students are Homestar, Strong Mad, and Homsar and that the main cast are generally implied to be the entire population of Free Country USA, it's likely that she's not just the only teacher but the founder as well.

* Guenevere in the WildWest part of ''Webcomic/ArthurKingOfTimeAndSpace''.

* They occasionally turn up in classic animated shorts with a school setting.
* Ms. Leading from ''WesternAnimation/TheMarvelousMisadventuresOfFlapjack''.
* Cheerilee from ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'' is the teacher at Ponyville's only schoolhouse.
* ''WesternAnimation/OverTheGardenWall'': In "Schooltown Follies" Wirt and Greg meet Miss Langtree, the teacher at a school for {{Civilized Animal}}s, who is heartbroken over her fiancee Jimmy Brown leaving her.