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Thank Two German Immigrant Women for Your Kid’s Kindergarten Class

Oh, kindergarten.

A wonderful time of coloring inside the lines, nap times, and experiencing one of the first levels of the American school system.

But have you ever wondered how this schooling level came to be?

Well, if you have a child enrolled in kindergarten or maybe went through kindergarten yourself many moons ago, you have two German immigrant women to thank.

The Birth of the Kindergarten Movement

As stated in the original Immigrant Entrepreneurship article, Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel started the kindergarten movement in Germany in the early 19th century. He was a German educational reformer who championed the focus on early child development.

Froebel mentored the two women that would bring the kindergarten movement to the United States: Caroline Louisa Frankenberg and Margarethe Meyer Schurz. However, the significance of these two women mentees must not be lost. As the original article states:

“The two women were change agents at a time when German and American women’s access to capital, informal and formal networks, and authority were for the most part non-existent outside the confines of their homes. Both women must be viewed as social entrepreneurs, who despite their lack of voting rights and positional power in the workplace, made a radical social impact in the nineteenth-century United States and the decades thereafter.”

Frankenberg and Schurz Introduce Kindergarten to America

The two women social entrepreneurs, armed with the training from Froebel, immigrated to the United States in the mid-1800s.

Frankenberg immigrated first and established a kindergarten in Columbus, Ohio in 1836. It closed after a few years and reopened in 1858. Schurz immigrated next in 1852 and set up her first kindergarten class in Watertown, Wisconsin in 1856. The two’s founding of their kindergarten classes survived their deaths and went on to an adopted method of schooling for children’s education in the United States.

The two were motivated by the development of children, not necessarily for personal or financial gain. As mentioned in the original article, “Frankenberg and Schurz nurtured children in an organic, natural way, as in a cultivated garden or ‘kindergarten.’”

The Social Impact of Frankenberg, Schurz, and Kindergarten in the U.S.

The social impact that Frankenberg and Schurz created with the concept and movement of kindergarten has affected the schooling system that we know today in the United States.

To quote from the original article:

“Kindergartens established early childhood education and school readiness in the United Sates initially as a result of the social entrepreneurial efforts of two progressive women with contrasting backgrounds. They differed in socio-economic status, religious orientation, and personal circumstances. Yet, they shared a common interest in guiding children to play and explore, most notably with Froebel’s gifts, which were created to enhance a child’s natural curiosity with regard to creative design, form, and even mathematics.

Their ideals and work bridged two continents, two languages, and two cultures and led them to the nineteenth-century United States where they founded the first kindergartens in two Midwestern states. Since then, kindergartens have provided thousands of women (and men) with a profession, enabling them to participate in specialized training and to earn a livelihood at a time when few positions and opportunities were open to women.”

Read the full article here.

Photo credit: © Tifonimages | Dreamstime.com

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Claremont Lincoln University

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