A photo of a ship at a dock in the early twentieth century and a photo of a group of American teachers in the early twentieth century.

Image Source: Frederick G. Behner Papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan

Working Definition:

In July 1901 the U.S.A.T. Thomas transported approximately five hundred teachers to the Philippines. These teachers, collectively known as “Thomasites” (after the ship) hailed from nearly every state in the Union, Turkey, Nova Scotia, and the Hawaiian Islands, and were determined to civilize the inhabitants of the distant archipelago. Though the term is not inherently harmful, the Thomasites played a crucial role in the history of U.S. colonialism in the Philippines, along with its attendant racial attitudes towards the peoples of the islands.

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Suggestions for Further Reading:

Sarah Steinbock-Pratt, Educating the Empire: American Teachers and Contested Colonization in the Philippines (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019); Alfred W. McCoy and Francisco A. Scarano, eds. Colonial Crucible: Empire in the Making of the Modern American State (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2009); Elizabeth Eittreim, Teaching Empire: Native Americans, Filipinos, and U.S. Imperial Education, 1879-1918 (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2019); Mary Racelis and Judy Celine Ick, Bearers of Benevolence: The Thomasites and Public Education in the Philippines (Manila: Anvil Publishing, 2001).