The Trouble With Trying to be Normal– The Ottawa Normal School

The Trouble With Trying to be Normal– The Ottawa Normal School


A normal school is a school created to train high school graduates to be teachers. Most such chools are now denominated “teachers’ colleges”.

The Normal School is today part of Ottawa City Hall. It was originally built in 1874 as Ottawa Normal School and served as a teacher’s college. The Gothic Revival building stands at Elgin Street and Lisgar and several extensions were added to the rear of the building.

It was part of Ontario’s normal school system of teacher’s colleges that had been set up by Egerton Ryerson. When Ryerson’s system was replaced by a more modern system it was renamed the Ottawa Teacher’s College in 1953. In the 1960s it was decided that Ontario’s teacher’s colleges should be merged into universities and the teacher’s college was merged into the Faculty of Education of the University of Ottawa in 1974. Four years later the building was closed and the building was sold to the federal government.– Journey to Nationhead

In 1986 it was purchased by the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton, to serve as part of a new RMOC headquarters. To the north of the college the main building of the new RMOC building was erected and links were created to the old school, which was re named the Heritage Building. With the creation of the new city of Ottawa in 2000 the building became part of Ottawa City Hall. The mayor has his office in this building, overlooking Elgin Street.


Photo –Wikimedia Commons


The photos below are ones I took at a local auction of the 1935 Ottawa Normal School Annual. Unfortunately I didn’t win it so I was glad I took photos.




I could not believe how many unmarried teachers there were.  In 1872, some female teachers could be dismissed for getting married–and things weren’t a whole lot better in 1915. Imagine being forbidden to loiter in ice cream shops if you were a teacher. I bet there was no telling what might happen if you ordered half vanilla and half chocolate!

It seems men were not exempt either. Any teacher who smoked, used liquor in any form, frequented pool or public halls, or even got shaved in a barber shop would give the board good reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity, and honesty.

In 1915- female teachers were not allowed to marry either during the term of their contract- nor keep company with men. They had to be home between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless attending a school function. You couldn’t under any circumstances dye your hair or dress in bright colours. Well, there went my chances!

The reason for the rule against marriage is that it would normally be followed by pregnancy, and no one wanted a pregnant woman teaching their children.  Oh the horrors! Also, the teacher would most likely be unable to finish the term if she were to become pregnant and it would be difficult to replace her. As for the other rules, if they felt it was improper for a teacher to behave that way–they made rules prohibiting that type of conduct.




Normal School Graduation Group- Carleton Place children 1900- Photo from Public Archives and Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum– no names

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The Ottawa Journal29 May 1935, WedPage 3


The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 1935–
05 Oct 1935, Sat  •  Page 30comments

Norah Craigie (Nora Pombert)–
I was a little girl approximately five years old, I went as a student to the school called the normal model school. We had to line up to enter and shake the teachers hand and curtsy first thing in the morning.


Thanks to Ed and Shirley Simpson I am slowly going though boxes of books from the late Ed Simpson to document and after will be donated to a proper spot-Ed and Shirley’s Simpson –Historic Books — the List

More to come on a daily basis..

oct 14 2021 update
oct 14 2021 update

1933 added November 8 2021
933 added November 8 2021

Too Hot for Teacher? What Happened to Yours?

2702 Words of History About Grieg’s School Ramsay–Miss Ruby Wilson

The Old Water Pump

Battle of the Hatpins — Women of Local History

The Curious Case of Benjamin Tett

Normal School, Ottawa, Delcampe postcard— at Ottawa Normal School.

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

8 responses »

  1. I was a little girl approximately five years old, I went as a student to the school called the normal model school. We had to line up to enter and shake the teachers hand and curtsy first thing in the morning.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Linda, I’m a student in the Master of Public History program at Carleton University and I’m currently doing a project on the history of teaching in Ottawa. I see you’ve made some references to the social life of teachers in 1915, and I’d like to include some of these details in my project (especially the rules surrounding marriage). Could you let me know where I could find your source for this information? Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I would love to tell you I got it in one spot. But most of my day is spent researching newspaper archives. Sure there are some ‘Alternative facts” but I think the community stuff is far more interesting. I do the Ottawa Journal Newspaper archives which does have a 7 buck cost a month.. but for free and it is where I got a lot of info.. The Almonte Gazette which is free and dates back to 1867 has some great stuff from the Ottawa Valley and is FREE..
      BTW if you find anything in my blogs you can use it. That is what it is there for. Good luck HUGGG


      • Ahh I see. I did spend some time looking at the Ottawa Journal online but my free trial expired and I’m not sure I have the time/money to keep looking around there. But thanks very much for responding! I’ll keep doing my own searching in the meantime. 🙂


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