The role of parents in public school education was as crucial in the past as it is today. Parents were challenged to see that their children attended school. The Edgartown School Committee 1860 to 1861 report urged support for their schools saying, "They are the safeguards of all our free institutions……Unless our system of education qualify the people for self government, everything that is most dear and most valuable to us as a nation is lost."
Some parents chose to home school their children themselves, like Mrs. Jernegan on board the Roman. Others hired tutors to come to their homes. Regardless, it was parents' responsibility to see that their children were educated.
The State of Massachusetts was clearly a forerunner in the country for providing quality education. As schools emerged throughout the U.S., the Town of Edgartown set a good example of a local board's ability to build and oversee a quality educational system throughout the 19th century.
Just after the turn of the century in 1918, laws finally existed in all of the 48 states requiring that elementary aged students attend school.
Martha's Vineyard Museum