Improved “Deportment”

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, March 19, 1912:  We got our report cards to day. It seems to me he marks rather hard in some things. I got my marks raised by two points in deportment, but I don’t see as I’ve improved any in that direction since last month. He was up to visit our school today. 

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

I’m surprised that high school students received grades in “deportment” a hundred years ago.

According to The Free Dictionary, deportment means “the manner in which a person behaves.”  At least the teacher apparently was pleased with Grandma’s behavior.

A few days before Grandma received her February report card she’d gotten a new teacher. The old one had quit mid-year. He caught her cheating shortly before he quit. I wonder if her February deportment grade had been affected by that incident—and if her grade had gone up in March because there were no more cheating incidents.

7 thoughts on “Improved “Deportment”

  1. When I was in primary school, we were given instruction in “deportment”. We weren’t given grades but if we looked scruffy or if we slouched, we could be given “black marks”. In our school, it related strictly to how we looked. This was in South Africa in the early 1980s!

  2. In the diary Grandma generally the term “he” to refer to a guy she thought was cute. She never used the complete name–but referred to him as B.G., B., Bill, and Billy in places. I’m not sure but I think that the guy was Bill Gauger. He eventually married her sister Ruth–

    I guess sometimes teen-age crushes don’t work out.

    If it was Bill, I no idea why he visited the school, but maybe he came back to visit his old high school. I believe that Bill was away at a normal school (teacher preparation school), but maybe he was in the area for spring break. (Did they have spring break back then?). The last time Bill was mentioned was over the Christmas holidays and Grandma indicated that he was going away for a long time.

  3. Your definition of deportment sounds like the citizenship we received grades for when I was in elementary school so many years ago. Part of the grade resulted from the teacher deciding how we got along with the other students, whether we made problems walking in lines to recess, etc.

    For some reason I always thought deportment meant the way one walked and moved. Looking at Webster’s 1828 and 1913 dictionaries (, both definitions are listed.

    Well, good for Helena to improve her deportment grade.

    1. Interesting–Thanks for checking the old dictionaries. I hadn’t realized that deportment had two meanings.

      I also remember getting grades for things like citizenship and behavior in elementary school.

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