Josephine Newbury Demonstration Kindergarten, Richmond, Va.
by Paula Y. Skreslet, Reference and Archives Librarian
William Smith Morton Library, Union Presbyterian Seminary
Josephine Newbury was teaching in the Atlanta public school system when she was recruited to join the faculty of the Presbyterian School of Christian Education as Associate Professor in 1952. A new purpose-built facility was created to become a model preschool for the training of teachers and the design of innovative curriculum. Before the Newbury Center opened in 1957, there was no education available in a school setting in Richmond or the surrounding counties for children younger than five. Preschool itself was an innovative concept then.
The Newbury Center was fully accredited by the Virginia State Department of Education as a kindergarten and as a training venue for teacher certification. Summer training workshops were attended by students from 13 Virginia universities. Education majors from Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Union University could do their student teaching there. Nurses-in-training in pediatrics at Richmond Memorial, the Medical College of Virginia and Johnston-Willis hospitals came to fulfill their requirements in education and socialization of the young child. The building included a mirrored glass panel running the full length of one wall in the main classroom, behind which up to 20 visitors could observe the children and their teachers. The observation room was soundproofed and air-conditioned. A microphone and speaker system made it possible to listen to the activities in the classroom. This facility was considered very advanced for its time; it was modeled after the teacher training lab at the University of Maryland.
In 1974 Josephine Newbury was succeeded as director by Elizabeth Apperson Ramsey. In 1982, under Ramsey’s leadership, the school received the Sarah Hill Brown Early Childhood Education award from Richmond Area Presbyterians.
Prof. Newbury published three books detailing her curricular approach : The Church Kindergarten Resource Book (1970), More Kindergarten Resources (1974), and Nursery-Kindergarten Weekday Education in the Church (1960). The kindergarten, later known as the Newbury Center for Early Childhood Education, would remain open until 2007.
Dementi Studios, one of Richmond’s foremost portrait and documentary photographers, was hired to photograph the Demonstration Kindergarten shortly after it opened in 1957. These images present an idealized image of childhood experience, social expectations, and gender roles, as well as the educational philosophy and methods of the time.
For further reading:
Cooper, S. B. (1882). The kindergarten as a child-saving work. Social Welfare History Project.
Mackenzie, C. (1886). Free kindergartens. Social Welfare History Project.
The Kindergarten Movement. Discovery Set. Social Welfare History Image Portal.
The Josephine Newbury Demonstration Kindergarten. Union Presbyterian Seminary Library Digital Collections.
Resources related to this topic may be found in the Social Welfare History Image Portal.