History: Adrienne (Addie) Caspers, legendary Edmonds School District teacher

Adrienne Caspers

The early years

Adrienne Margaret Caspers was born in Seattle on July 16, 1896. Called Addie by her friends and family, she was the daughter of James and Caroline Caspers. Her father was a painter by trade and had previously worked in Tacoma and Seattle. Addie was one of eight children when the family moved to Edmonds in 1905.

Her father purchased a large parcel of land north of the Edmonds city limits and built a large, two-story house with a wrap-around porch to meet his family’s needs. The farm reached from Front Street (Sunset Avenue) to what is today 9th Avenue North. Their large house sat on a small knoll above Front Street, overlooking Puget Sound, with an unlimited view of the Olympic Mountains.

Caspers Street of today was named after the family, and it would have been the property’s northern boundary. During the following decade, Addie’s father sold off small parcels of his land east of the main residence but still retained several acres for his family.

Caspers Road, circa 1910-1915. At the top of the hill would be today’s 9th Avenue North. (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historical Museum)

Addie Caspers was only 11 years old when her talents were recognized. Mrs. M. T.B. Hanna, the owner of the Edmonds Review, singled out Addie as a valuable news contributor and writer for the newspaper in 1907.

According to school and family records, Addie excelled in school while having a wide range of friends. Addie graduated from the 8th grade in 1911, and from Edmonds High School in 1915.  She was in a class consisting of 10 girls and two boys.

The 1911 Edmonds’ 8th grade graduating class. Addie Caspers is in the second row, wearing a sweater with large buttons, and a necktie.

Advanced education and early teaching. 

Soon after graduating from high school, Addie enrolled at the Washington State Normal School, a teachers college located in Bellingham. She excelled in her studies, receiving her teaching credentials two years later, in the spring of 1917. After graduating, she returned to Edmonds and three months later she was hired by the Edmonds School District.

Her first teaching assignment was at the one-room Maple Leaf Elementary School, that had been built by the Puget Mill Company for its new farming community near Alderwood Manor. Addie’s starting salary was $750 annually, which equates to approximately $15,000 today.

The original Maple Leaf Elementary School and students. (Photo courtesy of the Lynnwood – Alderwood Manor Heritage Historical Museum)

Her contract was extended the following year, with a raise of $50 for the year. But it turned out to be a turbulent year for Addie. The Maple Leaf school building where she had taught the previous year was sorely in need of repairs. Rather than repair the old building, the Puget Mill Company erected a larger two-room school house to help accomodate the growing number of students in the area.  Addie began the 1918-1919 school year teaching in the new building.

Later that year, a new elementary school was built near Seattle Heights, just west of Hall Lake near the Seattle-Everett Interurban railway. The school needed a proven experienced teacher, so Addie was transferred to Seattle Heights in January and taught there during the winter months of 1919. In the spring, she was called on again to establish and organize instruction in a new one-room school building that had been erected near Esperance.

In only her second year, she taught in three new schools, being the only teacher to teach all grade levels across all subjects. The children she taught often had never been in a formal school before.

The return to Edmonds  

In 1919-20, Addie was transferred to Edmonds and became the fourth-grade teacher at the two-story, wood-frame schoolhouse that had been built in 1891. The elementary school was located between 6th and 7th Avenues on the south side of Main Street, approximately a mile from her parent’s property where she resided

In 1928 a new 11-room schoolhouse had been built in front of the 1891 schoolhouse and the students moved into the new facilities in the fall of 1928. The old schoolhouse was also demolished at that time.

Students and staff circa 1924 in front of the original 1891 schoolhouse. Addie is up front, closest to the rail on the right, wearing a hat. (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historical Museum)

Stepping up to the plate to help

When the new grade school opened in 1928, Addie was initially scheduled to teach the fourth grade. But being highly respected and reliable, she was chosen by the school’s principal, Frances Anderson, to be the “acting principal” during the 1928-1929 school year, while Frances took a year-long leave of absence to travel to Europe. By all accounts Addie did a credible job fulfilling all the requirements of the principal’s job while managing to also be a substitute teacher when needed.

After the one-year “acting principal” position, Addie went back to full-time teaching. Due to her knowledge, flexibility and willingness to help, Addie taught third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students throughout her career.

While teaching, Addie also assisted Joyce Koerner in the creation of “A Historical Study of Edmonds Washington,” which was written by Joyce and adopted by the Edmonds School District as the standard local historical textbook for third graders in the district for many years. You can learn more about Joyce Koerner here.

Adrienne Casper’s third-grade class circa “The Spring of 1941.” She had nearly 50 students. (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historical Museum)

Author’s note: Approximately six months after the above photo was taken, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. Over the next four years, while still teaching, Addie helped with the war effort. She worked two-hour shifts as a lookout for enemy planes and submarines in Puget Sound from the towers erected along the Edmonds waterfront.

An observation tower that was built above Sunset Ave in 1942. (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historical Museum)

Addie also assisted Edmonds City Clerk George Leyda in the organization of Edmonds’ scrap-metal and rubber tire collection campaigns throughout the war.

Scrap metal and other items being dumped off on Main Street, circa 1942. (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historical Museum)

A long teaching career despite…

Like all female teachers of her era, Adrienne faced obstacles. She had begun teaching during a time when the Snohomish County schools enforced the “marriage bar,” which forbid female public school teachers from marrying. If they did, they had to give up their teaching positions unless they could prove they were the sole provider for their family.

Author’s note: Adrienne’s younger sister Julia was also a teacher. Julia chose to marry and was forced to leave the teaching profession. Adrienne conversely never married.

Julia Caspers, Adrienne’s younger sister, circa 1921. (Photo courtesy Edmonds Historical Museum)

Addie continued to teach until the late 1950s, teaching either the third or fourth grade during her final years. After 42 years in the Edmonds School District, she retired. Addie was revered by everyone.

Students said she was an excellent and caring teacher. She was often seen walking back and forth to school, talking with several students at her side.

“I often saw Addie helping Frances Anderson tend to the flower gardens at Frances’ home. Addie seemed to always be lending a helping-hand,” one colleague expressed.

After retirement

Addie led a modest life while teaching and after retirement. She had moved into a small cottage at 118 Caspers Street in 1941, near where the family’s original house had stood, and lived there for 50 years, until her death on Nov. 30, 1991 at the age of 95.

She was buried at the Edmonds Memorial Cemetery with a headstone that is inscribed with the words “Beloved Aunt.”

Adrienne Caspers’ headstone. (Photo by Byron Wilkes)

This article was researched and written by Byron Wilkes. Thanks go to the Edmonds Historical Museum and the Lynnwood-Alderwood Manor Heritage Historical Museum. Thanks also to Ed Caspers, Adrienne’s great nephew, for his contributions to this article.

  1. THANK YOU!!!!!! This article was incredibly well researched and written! Loved learning the history about our amazing city.

  2. Another great story. You bring our history to life with your personal touch. Thanks again, Byron

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