"Today, it is taken for granted that elementary school starts with kindergarten. In 1873, Susan Blow fought to bring this concept into the St. Louis Public Schools, making St. Louis the first school district in the nation to offer kindergarten. By the time of her death in 1916, more than 400 cities had kindergartens in the public schools.
"In 1871, [...] Susan became acquainted with the work of Friedrich Froebel, a Swiss educator who believed education should begin in early childhood when a child's intelligence and aptitude for learning could be trained through play. She observed the Froebel-inspired kindergartens that had spread throughout western Europe, Germany in particular, and resolved to bring them back to her hometown.
"Blow went to New York for a year to study Froebel's methods with his disciple, Maria Kraus-Boelte. Upon her return in 1873, the school board of St. Louis accepted Blow's offer to direct the city's first public school kindergarten in room four of the Des Peres School in Carondelet, with a paid assistant, Mary A. Timberlake, working under her direction.
"The program was so successful that each of the city schools came to start its own kindergarten until the 68 pupils of the Des Peres School in 1873 had grown to nearly 9,000 in schools throughout the city in the 11 years that Blow directed the program. In 1875 when the school board attempted to end the program in a cost-cutting measure, 1,500 people signed a petition that successfully urged them not to do so. The next year, the United States Centennial Commission in Philadelphia recognized Blow's exhibit with an award to St. Louis for the excellence of kindergarten within the public school system. Her students took her methods all over the country. Not only did she accept no remuneration for her efforts, but she also donated her own money to buy supplies for the kindergartens.
"Susan Blow was a woman with a mission that she accomplished by drawing upon her personal wealth and her remarkable intelligence."
Read more about Susan Blow and her acheivements in the Missouri History Museum blog, History Happens Here.
To people of all ages and backgrounds, the Missouri History Museum is a leading cultural institution and community resource that offers exhibitions, programming and collections to explore the history of the region in order to better understand the world we live in and build a stronger community for the future.
The Jefferson Memorial Building section of the Missouri History Museum was originally built as the first national monument to Thomas Jefferson, preceding the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. by more than 25 years. The museum now features special exhibits and St. Louis history galleries with interactive stations for children throughout.
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