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Last Update: 05-24-2020

Ruth Esther Shields

aka: Miss Shields

Teacher - 2nd Grade

Shep's teacher in grade 2B, and a character in his movies and books. (Her name in the books was Miss Bodkins)
Fan Comments
[ Courtesy: Steve Glazer - 02-11-2013 ]
Ruth Esther Shields -- born on September 6, 1898, in Grand River, Iowa -- was one of three daughters of William and Amy Shields, a prominent family in Decatur County, Iowa. She attended the University of Chicago, graduating in 1926. In the early 1930s, she lived in Calumet City while teaching 2nd and 3rd grades at Harding School.
Fan Comments
[ Courtesy: Steve Glazer - 02-11-2013 ]
Shep based many of his characters on real people in his life (although they often had little resemblance to their namesakes). One was Miss Shields, the Harding School teacher who assigned Ralphie the theme on what he wanted for Christmas. Shep's actual teacher in grade 2B at Hammond's Warren G. Harding Elementary School was the red-haired Ruth Esther Shields. The real Miss Shields was born in Grand River, Iowa, on September 6, 1898, to a prominent business family. She was a student at Simpson College in Iowa when it was briefly shut down in October 1918 for the Spanish Flu pandemic. She survived, obtaining her teaching credentials in 1926 at the University of Chicago. She joined the faculty of the newly opened Harding School the following year. And in 1928 she had 7-year-old Jean Shepherd in her class. The real Miss Shields remained unmarried, but was very active in teacher associations and had a busy social life. She would often host women's clubs at her home in Hammond, and sometimes lecture on such topics as "Birds on the Wing" or places she visited. She spent holidays with her parents back in Iowa or time with her sister at their cottage on a lake in northern Minnesota. Ruth Shields passed away at age 53 on June 6, 1952, at the home of a sister, after teaching for decades at Harding School and later Wilson School. Many of her colleagues and former students traveled to her funeral in her native Iowa, as well as her Hammond memorial service, where she was eulogized as "one of the unsung teachers of long service who have the rare gift of knowing what and how to teach, with winning the love of children and affection of fellow teachers."
Where Shep Made Reference To This Subject:

June 08,1952
The Hammond Times

Courtesy: Steve Glazer