Leoti Leni West.

Just arrived, wrapped in newsprint advertising a gun auction in Spokane, WA: Three books written by my great-great aunt Leoti Leni West (1851-1933), the first high school teacher in the state of Washington, who traveled from her home state of Iowa to establish Colfax Academy.

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At her retirement in 1922, she was the oldest active public school teacher in the state.

The red paper-bound book has a handwritten note inside from the recipient, noting Leoti gave it to them in 1905 as a gift. The hardbound book “The Wide Northwest” was signed by Leoti herself.

Interestingly, Leoti’s niece — my great grandmother Jessie Mabel West — was also a high school teacher in Laytonville, California, and married her pupil (scandalous! I believe they met when he was about 16 and she was 19), my great grandfather John Curts, a lawyer and school teacher who founded Amador County High School in Sutter Creek and was Principal of now-defunct Grass Valley High School. (He also helped incorporate the town of Sutter Creek and was mayor.) Many educators on multiple sides of my family!

I’m very much looking forward to reading about Leoti’s life in her own words. I’ve found her listed on the census living alone in a house she owned in 1900! That was practically a revolutionary act for a woman in that day and age.

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