Josephine Corliss Preston, Term of Office, 1913-1929

From "Territorial/State Superintendents" brochure by Carol J. Lind, 1976
Courtesy of the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction

Josephine Corliss Preston
Josephine Corliss Preston, Library of Congress.

 During her 16-year term, Josephine Corliss Preston (sixth state superintendent) saw the World War boom, the post-war depression and the resumed growth of Washington.

She saw secondary schools and colleges increase almost 400 per cent, the number of high school graduate increase from 2,512 to 21,587 and the cost of schools triple to $33,000,000.

Mrs. Preston came to the state post from Walla Walla where she had been county superintendent for nine years. She had received her education and initial teaching experience in Minnesota.

She achieved national prominence during her four terms. Among the many national positions she held were National Education Association president and Council of Chief State Officers president. She is remembered as a large, positive person with an approach to people and problems bordering on the puritanical. Among staff members she was discreetly known as The Duchess.

Her chief concern was rural education and rural teachers. Mrs. Preston felt the rural teachers needed private cottages rather than board with a family. Consolidation and transportation were further means she used to improve rural education. She constantly sought better pay for county superintendents and teachers. She took great pride in the steady progress of teacher standards which permitted the state to maintain its high rank in certification. In 1917 it was required that all candidates for certification be high school graduates and have completed nine weeks of training in a normal school. By 1927 two years of normal training were the minimum. She encouraged vocational education. In 1917 she was appointed a director of vocational education and the following year a supervisor of agricultural education.

In Preston’s time, the superintendent also was by law an ex officio member on the Country Life Commission, State Humane Bureau, State Library Committee, Archives Committee, Voting Machine Committee, and designated president of the Board of Trustees of the state Teachers’ Retirement Fund enacted in 1922. She also brought about the establishment of kindergartens, hot lunch programs, transportation and junior high schools.

Addendum: Preston died in 1958 on Vashon Island.


Biography, The Washington State Heritage Center

Campaign brochure, 1924. Details Preston's previous achievements in office. Courtesy private source. Contact WSHS for rights information.

Josephine Corliss Preston Scrapbook from the Washington State Library

Cartoon, WSHS collections. All rights reserved.

HistoryLink essay on Preston

"Josephine Corliss Preston: A Study of Educational Leadership," Seattle University thesis by Gary Rude, 1985

Newspaper articles about Preston and her activities as superintendent, Washington State University.