Teacher, her students published influential newspaper
Published: March 27, 2006 | 3870th good news item since 2003
Eulalia “Sister” Bourne was a southern Arizona homesteader, cattle rancher, author, and teacher best-known for her innovative ideas about education and a mimeographed school newspaper called Little Cowpuncher.
The newspaper was written and illustrated from 1932 to 1943 by Bourne’s students, Anglo and Mexican-American ranch children at five rural schools in southern Arizona, said Joan Sadin of Tucson, whose book Coyote School News was inspired by Bourne and her students.
Gov. Janet Napolitano gave the book to all of the state’s 84,000 fourth-graders last year.
Most of Bourne’s students in the one- or two-room schoolhouses close to the Mexican border were bilingual. Their stories and drawings described their lives on isolated ranches and events at Redington, Baboquivari, Sasco, San Fernando and Sopori schools.
Her nickname, “Sister,” was given to her by a younger sister who couldn’t pronounce Eulalia. At 16, she moved from New Mexico to Humbug, Ariz., with her husband. The couple split up two years later.
Bourne got her first teaching job at Beaver Creek.
In 1930, Bourne received a bachelor’s degree in English, with a minor in Spanish, from the University of Arizona. That fall, she took a job at Redington, a one-room schoolhouse 75 miles east of Tucson, for a monthly salary of $150. She took up one of the last grazing homesteads in Pepper Sauce Canyon, Sadin said, and published the first edition of the Little Cowpuncher.
By 1937, Bourne was making 200 copies of each issue, with 40 distributed to the kids and their parents, and 60 sent to subscribers in and around Tucson. The rest were distributed nationwide and to eight countries.
Bourne had radical ideas about education. She believed children ought to be paid for going to school, although she understood it would never happen. Sadin said Bourne gave students silver dollars for perfect attendance. And although state law required it at the time, she did not outlaw the use of Spanish in her schools.
Bourne took her students to the rodeo and museum in Tucson, among other places.
Bourne died on her ranch in 1984. She was 87 years old.