Bellefontaine Cemetery · Hall of Famous Missourians · Jefferson City · Kindergarten · St. Louis · Susan Blow

America’s First Kindergarten

Susan Blow opened the first publicly-funded kindergarten in the United States, in the Carondalet neighborhood of St. Louis. While in Germany with her father, Susan saw first hand how Friedrich Froebel’s theories (the founder of kindergarten or “children’s garden”) were being applied to early child education. She saw the importance and need back in America. So in 1873 she founded the first successful public kindergarten at Des Peres School in Carondelet, St. Louis Missouri, and ran it for the next eleven years without any pay. Blow taught children in the morning and teachers in the afternoon.

While most classrooms were plain, Blow’s kindergarten classroom was bright and cheerful. It had low tables and short benches just right for small children. The room contained many plants, books, and toys for children to use during work and play. Students learned about color, shapes, and fractions by using simple objects like balls and blocks. They also learned about keeping themselves clean, eating well, and getting regular exercise.

By 1883 every St. Louis public school had a kindergarten, making the city a model for the nation. Devoting her life to early education, Susan Blow was instrumental in establishing kindergartens throughout America.

She died in 1916 and was buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis. You can also see a bust of Ms Blow in the Hall of Famous Missourians in the State Capitol in Jefferson City. Her kindergarten has been restored and is open to the public.

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