In American urban classrooms in the early twentieth century, women teachers faced two looming and contradictory specters: the idealized image of the gentle, nurturing teacher, and the reality of the cold and confusing working conditions of city schools. Women teachers had entered an occupation that was swathed in romantic images of the honorable lady teacher. In both popular culture and educational dialog, the woman teacher was portrayed as “naturally” maternal, caring, and patient, and as having a greater interest in personal satisfaction than in financial reward. Teaching was perceived less as a job than as a mission or a personal commitment. Like mothering, teaching was not just something one did, but was something that defined who one was; it was not simply an act, but a role. Teaching, like mothering, was a sacred calling for sacred women.