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Kindergarten: Practical Results Of Ten Years’ Work – 1889

Free Kindergarten: Practical Results Of Ten Years’ Work

Abstract of Paper By Mrs. Sarah B. Cooper

Mrs. Sarah Brown Cooper, Pioneer in Kindergarten Education
Mrs. Sarah Brown Cooper
Pioneer in Kindergarten Education

Editor’s Note: This entry was a presentation written by, but not delivered,  by Mrs. Sarah B. Cooper at the Sixteenth Annual Session of the The National Conference of Charities And Correction Held In San Francisco, Cal., September 11- 18, 1889. Mrs. Cooper was internationally known as a pioneer in kindergarten education. Her ideas were endorsed by American educators, and she maintained extensive correspondence with educators and prominent women including Julia Ward Howe, Frances Willard, Clara Barton, Elizabeth Peabody, and Susan B. Anthony. In addition to organizing the Golden Gate Kindergarten Association, Mrs. Cooper led the founding of a teacher training institute, and in 1892 she founded and was elected first president of the International Kindergarten Union.

Eleven years ago there was not one Free Kindergarten west of the Rocky Mountains. To-day there are forty-eight in San Francisco and Oakland alone, including those in orphanages and day homes. Over forty of these are in San Francisco, and several others are in process of incubation, so to speak. Branching out from San Francisco as a centre, they have extended in every direction, from the extreme northern part of Washington to Lower California and New Mexico; and they have planted themselves in Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, and in almost every large city in California. The work in San Francisco has been phenomenal. No city in the Union has made such rapid strides in this work among the little children. This is owing largely to the fact that persons of wealth have been induced to study the work for themselves, and have become convinced of its permanent and essential value to the State.

The first Free Kindergarten west of the Rocky Mountains was opened in San Francisco, in September, 1878. It had its inspiration in Professor Felix Adler, who was then on a visit to this coast. In July preceding, he addressed a meeting composed of representative citizens, and presented the claims of the Free Kindergarten, as a preventive of crime and a foundation for reformatory work, in such a strong and convincing manner as to awaken an interest that soon found expression in the organization and opening of the first Free Kindergarten, at 64 Silver Street, with Miss Kate Douglas Smith as its accomplished, well-trained, and most successful teacher. It should be mentioned, in this connection, that Professor Adler and S. W. Levy, president of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum, visited leading business men and secured 130 monthly subscriptions of a dollar each with which to carry on the work. Under these auspices a society was organized and incorporated, under the name of the Public Kindergarten Society (afterward called the Pioneer), whose president, Judge Solomon Heydenfeldt, and an energetic and efficient band of co-workers, still carry on three large and flourishing Kindergartens in needy portions of the city.

The second Free Kindergarten was opened under the auspices of a large Bible class, in October, I879, from the conviction that a religion which has everything for a future world, and nothing for this world, has nothing for either. The city swarmed with multitudes of neglected children. They must be looked after. They must be saved to themselves, to the commonwealth, and to the world. Stirring articles were written, showing that, in order to do this, we must get hold of the little waifs that grow up to form the criminal element just as early in life as possible; must hunt up the children of poverty, crime, and brutality, the children that flock in the tenement houses, on the narrow, dirty streets, the children who have no one to call them by dear names, children that are buffeted hither and thither,-” flotsam and jetsam on the wild, mad sea of life.” This is the element out of which criminals are made.

These were some of the thoughts that found expression through the vigorous press of San Francisco, which I do not hesitate to affirm has done more to plant Free Kindergartens all over this Western Coast and in the islands of the sea than any and all other agencies combined.

The Jackson Street Kindergarten Association seemed destined to prosper from the start. Six Kindergartens were organized the first four years, and then the society was incorporated under the name of the Golden Gate Kindergarten Association, with many of the philanthropic ladies and gentlemen of San Francisco as officers and members of the board. The fifth year marked an era in Kindergarten work. Mrs. Leland Stanford, who had been a liberal contributor to the work from the first, now dedicated a large sum for the establishment of Free Kindergartens in this city and the adjacent towns, in memory of a beloved and only son. From first to last, Mrs. Stanford has given over $45,000 to this work. Over one thousand little children, from two and one-half to five years of age, have been trained by this sweet, memorial ministry. The Lester Norris Memorial Kindergarten was also founded in memory of the beautiful and beloved boy whose name it bears. In many places throughout the country, bereaved parents are turning their thoughts toward needy, neglected children, and are thus finding comfort in their sorrow by supplying a vicarious motherhood to those who, through poverty, misfortune, or sin, are left without this divine nurturing. It will be a fine thing for this world when we have more of that which has been beautifully characterized as the universal motherhood; that sort of motherhood which feels a personal responsibility for universal childhood; that sort of motherhood which feels that every child has a claim upon her love and tenderness, for all are children of a common Father.

The work of the Golden Gate Association has been greatly prospered. It has continued to increase, until now it has under its care i8 Kindergartens, with a total annual enrolment of something over I,500 children, with 36 teachers, including principals and assistants. And every Kindergarten has a kind, wise, and motherly matron, who lives in the building, and looks after the children out of school hours, and keeps everything in good condition. Of these 18 Free Kindergartens, 8 are memorial schools. The Lux-Potter Kindergarten bears the name of a bright, promising grandson.

Two fine Kindergartens are sustained by Mrs. Senator Hearst, another by Mrs. A. J. Pope. Two others are carried on by a band of royal workers,- the Helping Hand Society, under the efficient leadership of Mrs. D. W. Folger. The Huntington Kindergarten is among the last organized. The Willard Kindergarten was established by a gift from the noble woman whose name it bears. The Produce Exchange of San Francisco is the only commercial organization in this country that supports a Kindergarten.

During the ten years of organized work, about $9o,ooo have been received by the Golden Gate Association for the work. About sixty earnest, self-sacrificing, benevolent ladies belong to this Association, and are untiring in their labors in behalf of the children. The Silver Street Society is another incorporated body which carries on three large and flourishing Kindergartens, numbering 250 children. This work is largely sustained by Mrs. Charles B. Alexander.

The Pacific Kindergarten Society is also incorporated, and carries on one large school. Besides these incorporated societies, there are a large number of Kindergartens carried on by churches and individuals. The First Congregational Churches of this city and of Oakland sustain Free Kindergartens, as does also the First Presbyterian Church of Oakland. The Buford Kindergarten of this city has been greatly aided by St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the First Presbyterian Society. This is practical Christian work. Mrs. Charles R. Story has carried on a Kindergarten, by her faithful efforts, for nearly nine years. The young ladies of the High School, aided by the Alumne of the same institution, support the Occidental Kindergarten. It is a noble work. There are excellent Kindergartens connected with the Protestant Orphan Asylum, the Protection and Relief Society, the Little Sisters’ Infant Shelter, and many of the Catholic Educational Institutions and Day Homes. Besides these there are several private Kindergartens that receive more or less free pupils. Including all these there are, as nearly as can be estimated, about 50 Kindergartens in San Francisco that have a total annual enrolment of about 4,500 children between the ages of two and one-half and seven years. As nearly as can be computed, the annual cost per capita is $I5.65. The cost per pupil in the public schools of the city is $20.83. When it is remembered that the Free Kindergartens have their own rents to pay, the average cost for each child compares most favorably with that of the public schools.

Aside from the munificent gifts of Mrs. Stanford, and the large and liberal patronage of other ladies, there are hundreds of equally generous, self-sacrificing men, women, and children, who give with liberal hand.

As before stated, nearly every large city on this coast has one or more Free Kindergartens. Oakland has five. Sacramento has opened three flourishing schools within the last four months. Los Angeles, San Jose, Fresno, Menlo Park, Mayfield; and Portland, Ore., Reno, Nev., Tucson, Ariz., and Tacoma, Wash., all have their Free Kindergartens.

The Asylum for the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind, in Berkeley, is making a noble experiment with this new education. The Home for the Feeble-minded, in Santa Clara, employs two fine Kindergartners, who are meeting with remarkable success.

It is not possible to realize the bearing of the Free Kindergarten work upon the future of this great State. After ten years of faithful work among the needy children of this city, we are prepared to show substantial results that cannot be gainsaid or denied. The record which these children make when they go into the public school is a tribute to the value of this training not only in the developing of all the faculties, but in the unfolding of the moral nature as well. There is a steady stream of influence that flows back into the families, which tells for good, no matter how wretched and degraded the households may be. The parents come to feel that their children are of some value, and they treat them with more consideration and kindness. The children feel that somebody loves them, and they unfold and blossom like plants in the sunshine.

The Kindergarten prepares for the arts and trades. It lays a good, strong foundation for industrial education. It takes the little child at three years of age, and, through the use and agency of utilized play, sets the wheels of industrious habits in motion.

In the Kindergarten, the child is taught to pay for what he gets,to earn it by effort and industry. He is taught to scorn to lean on the help and work of others. He is not only taught what objects are, but he is taught to produce them. He is taught to create. Selfdependence and self-reliance are thus cultivated. He is thrown upon his own resources just as much as possible. It is a maxim of the Kindergarten that all help which smothers self-help is disastrous in its results upon the pupil.

Before the close of our first year’s work at 116 Jackson Street, many voluntary testimonials like the following came from landlords and business firms in that locality: “You are doing a good work among the ‘hoodlum’ element: we don’t have so many broken windows as we used to have.” Another came in the shape of a generous annual subscription, with this simple announcement, ” Keep on with the little urchins: they ‘nip ‘ no more fruit and vegetables nowadays.” Still another testimonial came at the second Christmas festival, from the dealers in that neighborhood, in the shape of a generous purse of money, laid upon the table, with the brief suggestion, “A voluntary offering to the very best sort of work that can be done for the city.” Then came a large donation from the Produce Exchange, inspired by brief visits to the Kindergarten and witnessing the results of the training. And this annual donation has become a fixed thing, increasing with each year, until now the Produce Exchange Kindergarten is one of the most attractive of our Free Kindergartens.

That the moral tone of the locality has been uplifted is best demonstrated by the fact that, gradually, the wretched parents in many instances have been led to feel that their children must have a better chance to live decently than the Barbary Coast affords. And so, one by one, the families have moved into better surroundings. And it is fair to hope that, with fresh longing for the betterment of their children, may come a new desire to live better lives themselves. The Kindergarten seems to act as a revelator to these parents, showing them that their children have a substantial value; and, recognizing this fact, they set about making better conditions for family life. The removal of a large number of families from the Barbary Coast determined us to seek new quarters, where a larger number of children could be reached.

We have spoken of the physical and moral results of the work accomplished. But we have abundant testimony, also, in regard to intellectual results. For the aim of the Kindergarten is to harmoniously develop and unfold the threefold nature of the child, and in fair order and freshness lead him on in ways of pleasantness and paths of peace.

It should be understood that the Kindergarten concerns itself with the development of faculty rather than the mere learning of set lessons: it devotes itself more to ideas than to words; more to things than to books. Its mission is to beget within the child the power of assimilating knowledge and turning it into practical use. That the Kindergarten does this is proved, over and over again, by the record of the children that go from our Kindergartens into the public schools. By sheer development of faculty, by having learned how to learn, they often distance children several years older than themselves. And it is a fact that three prize pupils of the public schools were children from the Produce Exchange Kindergarten, then on the Barbary Coast. And it must be remembered that these children came from the by-ways and alleys of one of the most destitute and wretched portions of the city.

From the first year of our work until now, the School Boards of the city have shown signal kindness to the Kindergartens. They adopted two classes in the early stage of the work, and these were sustained until a lack of funds compelled their discontinuance. It has been in their power on many occasions to prove their fellowship and good feeling, and they have never failed to do so. During the past year, the present school board has taken a step forward by employing a competent, skillful, and enthusiastic Kindergartner-Miss Annie Stoval-to instruct all the teachers of the primary grades in the theory and practice of the Kindergarten.

All our Kindergartens are provided with ample conveniences for bathing and dressing the children, when necessary. Kind and motherly women are employed as matrons, who live in the respective buildings, and are always ready to assist in service to the children. It is not uncommon for the good matron to give a warm breakfast to some child who has come, unwashed, uncombed, and breakfastless, to the one haven of comfort,- the Kindergarten. Many of the little children are mere babies: they have had no training in habits of neatness, and they have everything to learn. The heavy cares of the Kindergarten teacher are greatly lightened by the ready services of these faithful coadjutors, who live in our school buildings.

In referring to this sort of care for neglected children, a strong and vigorous writer of this city says: “The society which snatches the little Arab from the street, and, by giving him home, shelter, protection, and guidance, makes him feel that the world is not all a desert, and its denizens not all Ishmaelites, is doing untold good. We once thought that to the parental influence might be safely trusted the child. We now know that there are parents too indifferent and too brutal to be trusted…. The parent may transmit physical infirmities; but if to good women and good men are given the training of boys and girls, and if these children are surrounded by good influences, there are more prizes than blanks to be drawn in the lottery. We commend the Boys’ and Girls’ Aid Society, the Kindergarten Schools, and all kindred charities, to our generous people, not only as objects of charity, but there is business in it for the tax-payer. As a question of political economy, the meanest rich man from whose sordid soul taxes are wrenched as blood from the turnip, might well figure a profit to his ledger account if he would aid in this direction. It is easier to prevent crime than to punish it. If organized society would do more to rescue young folk from a life of crime and idleness, dissipation and mendicancy, it would be more economical. Aid Societies and Kindergarten Schools are less costly than almshouses criminal reformatories, and prisons.”

The first Kindergarten training on this coast was done by Miss Emma Marwedel. Later, one of her first pupils, Miss Smith,- now Mrs. Kate Douglas-Wiggin,- took up this work, and, aided by her sister, Miss Nora Smith, during the past nine years the California Kindergarten Training School has sent out over 200 trained Kindergartners, who are doing valuable work all over the Pacific Coast; and some of them have gone to distant Territories and to the Islands of the Sea.

And now, in closing this paper, I beg to say that it seems to me it has been clearly demonstrated that the best education for the prevention of pauperism and crime is that sort of education which, from earliest childhood, develops all the powers of body and mind, fosters good habits, cultivates a right spirit, imparts practical information develops skill and capacity, and trains the young to active and skilled industry. The fact that a large number of paupers and criminals cannot read and write has been deemed a conclusive argument to the effect that all that was needed to suppress these dire evils was to teach the people to read and write. The truth is, illiteracy is not the primal cause of pauperism or crime.

The State, the community, the patriotic citizen, must train the children for honorable citizenship. Better, far better, that we plant Kindergartens and organize industrial schools, and educate the young for work, than to let them grow up in such a manner as to be good for nothing else than to fill our prisons, jails, and penitentiaries. Crime cannot be hindered by punishment. Crime can only be hindered by letting no child grow up to become a criminal. We may make laws and constitutions on paper; but character is a growth, and to all growth belongs the element of time. We must call the little children from the very earliest years, and prepare them for useful and honorable citizenship. Take the very little child into the Kindergarten, and there begin the work of physical, mental, and moral training. Put the child in possession of his powers: develop his faculties; unfold his moral nature; cultivate mechanical skill in the use of the hands; give him a sense of symmetry and harmony, a quick judgment of number, measure, and size; stimulate his inventive faculties; make him familiar with the customs and usages of well-ordered lives; teach him to be kind, courteous, helpful, and unselfish; inspire him to love whatsoever things are true, and pure, and right, and kind, and noble. And, thus equipped, physically, mentally, and morally, send him forth to the wider range of study, which should include within its scope some sort of industrial training: that is, the putting of the boy or girl into the possession of the tools for technical employment, or for the cultivation of the arts of drawing and kindred employments; and, still further on, the boy and girl should have a completed trade. Thus will they be prepared to solve the rugged problem of existence by earning their own living through honest, faithful work. Victor Hugo puts it forcibly, but truly, when he says, ” Every case of vagabondage has its root in a neglected child.”

What, then,– briefly summarized,– are some of the practical results of ten years’ work in the Free Kindergartens? As to adults: –

First (and let me say that I deem this first in point of essential import and value): A deeper, wider, and more far-reaching sympathy between the top and the bottom of society. “The rich and the poor meet together, and the Lord is the Maker of them all.”

Second: An evident moral uplift, slow but sure, in the localities where our Kindergartens are located.

Third: An increasing self-respect among parents, more affection in the households, and a decided tendency to place a higher value upon their children.

Fourth: A slow and steady growth in moral quality, and in the substantial virtues of practical daily living,- such as sobriety, industry, economy, thrift, self-dependence, good manners, kindness, and temperance in all things.

As to the children: –

Fifth: A vast heaven-land of happiness, never dreamed of before, in which the powers and graces of body, soul, and spirit symmetrically unfold, just as do the plants under the genial, entreating rays of the sun.

Sixth: The perceptible growth and development of the creative powers, the moral and esthetic sense, and a love for that which is pure, true, honest, and of good report.

Seventh: The growth of a love to God and a love for each other, which is “the fulfilling of the law,” and which will fit them to be manly men and womanly women, doing their part well in the work of life, and making this world the better for their having lived in it.

Kindergarten Culture

Abstract of a Paper By Mrs. C. W. Dohrmann, Stockton, Cal.

A recognition of the necessity for kindergarten culture, and its speedy adoption by all the States of the Union as a part of the public school system, is a most important and urgent necessity, and would prove of great benefit to the coming generations. It has been delayed, perhaps, not so much from a lack of appreciation of its beneficial results, as from the fact that the masses have not as yet been able to comprehend its educational value. They have looked upon it as a work of charity, and have been unable to grasp the fact that instruction and play can and must go hand in hand.

The Kindergarten takes hold of the child at the most important epoch of life,- the formative period. Impressions precede expressions, and we should be most careful that the child receive none but the best impressions, especially when we consider that these will be lasting and affect his whole after life.

In the Kindergarten, amidst beautiful surroundings, by the harmony of poetry and song, in the contemplation of all that is good, noble, and beautiful, the child is led to a recognition of the beauty of a stainless character. He is taught self-respect, industry, and the value of a well-ordered and well-spent active life.

Here the little one, though permitted to exercise his self-will, learns to do so not for selfish gratification only, but in recognition of the fact that he is one of a community, and has a common share in all that interests them. He becomes self-helpful by ministering to others. He is taught to look upon work of all kinds, no matter how menial, as honorable and desirable, since it is to the workers that we owe a debt of gratitude for most of the comforts that surround us. Truthfulness, honesty, politeness, reverence, and veneration are fostered. Abhorrence of all that is vicious and undesirable is firmly implanted. The punishment of children who give way to expressions of violence and temper lies in the deprival of privileges and enjoyment, brought on by the child himself through his own carelessness and fault.

The drift of education in the past has been almost exclusively toward mental development at the expense of moral and manual training. Since education, to be perfect, must have for its aim the ultimate harmonious development of the entire nature of man, and since it must begin at the formative period of childhood, it should be so arranged as to give scope to all his activities.

Language is taught by leading the child to give proper expression to all impressions; reading, by the study of objects through analyzing the parts, properties, and peculiarities of every new object he meets; writing, by the reproduction of such objects, be it through sewing, drawing, building; arithmetic, through the process of teaching numbers by the handling, accumulating, and dividing of his kindergarten toys; rhetoric, by noting the expression of others and the contrast in the various expressions; music, through songs and games; poetry, through verses and tales; geometry, by studying the forms of objects, their comparison, and a reproduction of their outlines or surfaces; natural history, through the games and consequent talks upon the habits of animals and plants; religion, through contemplation of nature, the recognition of the truth that we owe all these beauties to Him who is All-pervading, who guides and guards us and protects and loves us, and whose name the infant lips are taught to breathe with tenderest love and sublime adoration. Politics are taught by leading the child on to recognition of the necessity of well-ordered society, his own duties toward his fellow-beings, and his loyalty to his country.

This training should not be stopped after leaving the Kindergarten proper, but should be continued and applied throughout the entire common-school system, so as to give the young, especially those who leave school about the age of fourteen, an industrial education that will fit them to battle with life. Each boy and girl should be fitted for some trade, and the girls should receive a thorough domestic training, since in their hands lie the welfare of the future homes and domestic happiness.

Let us, then, not leave any effort unattempted which will have for its result the permanent engrafting of the Kindergarten on the public school system.


This work may also be read through the Internet Archive.

Source: Proceedings of The National Conference of Charities And Correction at the Sixteenth Annual Session Held In San Francisco, Cal., September 11- 18, 1889. pp. 186 -196.

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