M977.97.22 | Toy school desk

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Toy school desk
1900-1930, 20th century
7.3 x 6.7 x 10.7 cm
Gift of Mrs. S. Boyd Millen
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Toy (148)
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Keys to History

Although a toy, this is an example of the style of desk that was common in schools at the beginning of the 20th century. The full-size versions would also have been used in upper-class homes, where young children were privately tutored.

Between 1896 and 1914, education was hotly debated in Quebec. In 1897, both the Catholic and Protestant clergies strongly opposed the attempt by educational reformers to create a public "Ministère de l'Instruction" and ensure passage of a law making school attendance mandatory for children. At the time, the majority of working-class children within the Catholic community did not go to school past third grade. The law was eventually passed, although both the Catholic and Protestant Churches maintained their hold on education for several more decades.

  • What

    This type of desk is made of wood. The full-size version would have seated two students who shared a small blackboard.

  • Where

    This desk was a toy that a child might have played with at home while pretending to be at school.

  • When

    In 1942 a law was passed in Quebec making it obligatory for children to attend school. In 1964 the Ministry of Education was created, paving the way for control of the curriculum to pass from the Church to secular teachers.

  • Who

    This toy school desk belonged to Charlotte Bishop Millen.