Grateful American® Foundation

Who created the first US kindergarten class?

February 27th

d0ce2ac358b0a6ca4288351164c78ec9@2xFebruary 27, 1818 — Pioneering educator, Emma Marwedel (February 27, 1818–November 17, 1893) is born today.

The founder of the kindergarten movement in the US became a feminist, and an early proponent of prenatal care.

Born in Germany to Captain Heinrich Ludwig Marwedel and Jacobina Carolina Christiana, her father was a military officer who is known to have given her “an exceptional education,” but died before she was 11 years old, leaving her in charge of the family.

An ardent feminist, in 1865 she helped found the first women’s rights organization in Germany, and in 1867 the first industrial art school for women.

Marwedel was brought to New York by American feminist Elizabeth Palmer Peabody to start kindergartens and vocational schools to prepare women to become skilled industrial workers. 

In 1872, she founded kindergartens in Washington, DC for the children of various senators. She then went to Los Angeles where she founded the Pacific Normal Training School and the California Model Kindergarten.

After moving to Oakland in 1878, Marwedel founded a model kindergarten at 511 Seventeenth Street. In 1879 she founded another kindergarten in Berkeley, and then moved to San Francisco in 1880. 4 She helped found the San Francisco Kindergarten Society, which established the first free kindergarten on the West Coast.

She never married or had children of her own.

Words of Wisdom

Not until the science of life and man is equally understood by men as well as by women; Not until this understanding brings equal weight of responsibility to men as well as to women; Not until the preparation for fatherhood and motherhood forms a lasting curriculum in our higher school instruction and in our universities, can we expect a sound and lasting progress of mankind.

— Emma Marwedel, founder of the kindergarten movement in the US, from her book, "Conscious Motherhood," page 76.

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