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Harrison, Elizabeth (1849-1927) Papers


Scope and Contents

Biographical Note

Administrative Information

Detailed Description




A Course for Mothers Given by the Chicago Kindergarten College


Miscellaneous records and related materials

Oversized materials, 1890-1925

Ledgers of the Chicago Kindergarten College

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Harrison, Elizabeth (1849-1927) Papers, 1849-1927 | National Louis University Archives and Special Collections

By Mark Burnette; Revised by M.Ryan 2015, 2017

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Collection Overview

Title: Harrison, Elizabeth (1849-1927) Papers, 1849-1927View associated digital content.

Predominant Dates:1880-1927

ID: 12/001

Primary Creator: Harrison, Elizabeth (1849-1927)

Other Creators: Crouse, Mrs. John Nathan (Rumah)

Extent: 7.0 Linear Feet

Subjects: College presidents, Harrison, Elizabeth, 1849-1927, Kindergarten, Teachers, Teachers colleges

Languages: English

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The Elizabeth Harrison Papers consist of Correspondence; Publications (Pamphlets/Articles/ Addresses); Manuscripts; “A Course for Mothers Given by the Chicago Kindergarten College” (1891); Journals, Notebooks and Scrapbooks; and Miscellaneous items (documents pertaining to the Chicago Kindergarten Club, the Chicago Kindergarten Training School and the Kindergarten College, personal papers of Elizabeth Harrison, and writings by Mrs. J.N. Crouse, Susan Blow, and William T. Harris).  Within each category, materials are organized chronologically.

Biographical Note

Elizabeth Harrison was born in Athens, Kentucky, September 1, 1849. At an early age, her family moved to Midway, Kentucky, and in 1856 to Davenport, Iowa. From her childhood, she suffered from poor health: chronic asthma and bronchitis, and in later years from recurring pneumonia.

In Davenport, she attended public schools and graduated from the local high school, whose faculty and administration were populated by the “Acht und Verzigers,” Germans who immigrated following the 1848 revolution in Germany.  However, her father’s business reversals prevented her from attending college, and she devoted the next years of her life to caring for her sisters’ children in Marshalltown, Iowa.

In the summer of 1879, Harrison visited a high school classmate living in Chicago who persuaded her to attend the kindergarten training class organized by Alice Putnam.  Putnam had opened the first kindergarten in Chicago in 1874 and began offering courses in her Kindergarten Training School at the Loring School on Prairie Avenue, Chicago, in 1879 (the following year Putnam founded the Chicago Froebel Association). Harrison returned to Chicago in September 1879 to attend Putnam’s Training School, completed the 36-week training course, and received both a diploma and a certificate to train kindergarten teachers.

In 1881-82 Harrison attended Susan Blow’s school in St. Louis, the first public kindergarten in the United States, which opened in 1873.  In order to pay for her attendance at Blow’s school, Harrison opened a summer kindergarten in Marshalltown, Iowa, and in six months Harrison completed the two-year program.  The following year she returned to the Loring School but almost immediately traveled to New York to study with Maria Boelte and her husband John Kraus.  In 1854-56 Boelte had studied with Frau Louise Froebel, the widow of Frederich Froebel (1782-1852, founder of the kindergarten movement in Germany).  Thus, within three years, Harrison had studied with the pioneers of the kindergarten education movement in the United States.

After returning to Chicago in 1883, Harrison and Putnam organized the Chicago Kindergarten Club, which initially attracted 30 members. The following year, Harrison began offering mothers’ classes to educate parents about the kindergarten, and in the fall of 1885 or 1886—National-Louis University and its predecessor colleges traditionally have traced their origins to the latter date, but the sources are contradictory—Miss Harrison’s Training Class (or School) opened with five students and two mothers.

By 1887, there were 48 kindergartens in Chicago and its suburbs (private, church, settlement house, and the first in a public school) and four kindergarten training schools. Harrison soon met Mrs. John N. (Rumah) Crouse—wife of a prominent Chicago dentist, founder and president (1877-1907) of the Women’s Baptist Home Missionary Society in Chicago, and mother of one of Harrison’s kindergarten students—and the two women began planning an expanded curriculum.  By 1889 they had opened the Chicago Kindergarten Training School in the Chicago Art Institute, at Michigan Avenue and Van Buren Street. Although they shared many of the responsibilities of operating the school, Harrison focused on teaching and publicizing the kindergarten programs while Mrs. Crouse attended to the financial management, publicity, student recruitment, facilities management, and fund raising for the school.

Eighteen eighty-seven also saw the first of several literary schools, focusing on various historical literary figures, sponsored by the Chicago Kindergarten Club and the Chicago Kindergarten Training School. These began to attract the notice of the local Chicago newspapers.  In 1889, Harrison began to offer courses in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for kindergarten teachers and mothers, and in 1890 she traveled to Germany to meet with Baroness Bertha von Marenholtz-Bulow and Henrietta Breyman Schrader, a niece of Froebel, and visited the Schrader Kindergarten Training School.

Harrison played a major role in the kindergarten exhibit at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.  By then, there were 100 kindergartens in the Chicago area, and Chicago Kindergarten College students were supervising 50 of them. In 1894 Harrison organized the first national Mother’s Convocation in Chicago, forerunner of the Parent and Teachers Association (PTA), which drew 1,200 attendees. She was becoming a national figure.

At the turn of the 20th century, there were more then 5,000 public school kindergartens in the U.S. and more than 200 kindergarten training schools, and Chicago Kindergarten College alumni were holding positions of influence in the state and local Normal Schools, which were beginning to graduate kindergarten teachers.

Harrison was a founding member of the International Kindergarten Union in 1892, and in later years charted a moderate course between the conservative (strictly Froebelian) wing of the kindergarten movement, represented by Susan Blow, and the more liberal wing associated with John Dewey.

In 1912-13 Harrison visited Rome to observe the school of Maria Montessori, and in 1914 her study of the Montessori Method was published by the U.S. Bureau of Education. The following year the National Kindergarten College, successor to the Chicago Kindergarten College, began offering classes in the Montessori Method.

In 1918, a Children’s School was opened under the supervision of Clara Belle Baker, the younger sister of Edna Dean Baker, who had become Associate President of the National Kindergarten and Elementary College and would succeed Elizabeth Harrison as its president in 1920.

Following a heart attack in 1919, Elizabeth Harrison retired as president of the National Kindergarten and Elementary College in 1920. She spent the remaining years of her life principally in San Antonio, Texas, occasionally traveling to other parts of the U.S.  Until the end of her life she revised her memoir, Sketches Along Life’s Road, which was eventually published in 1930, three years after her death on October 31, 1927.

Subject/Index Terms

College presidents
Harrison, Elizabeth, 1849-1927
Teachers colleges

Administrative Information

Repository: National Louis University Archives and Special Collections

Processing Information: Described at the folder level.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Correspondence],
[Series 2: Publications],
[Series 3: Manuscripts/Typescripts],
[Series 4: A Course for Mothers Given by the Chicago Kindergarten College],
[Series 5: Journals/Notebooks/Scrapbooks],
[Series 6: Miscellaneous records and related materials],
[Series 7: Oversized materials, 1890-1925],
[Series 8: Ledgers of the Chicago Kindergarten College],

Series 1: Correspondence
Box 1: Various Correspondence, 1890 to 1927View associated digital content.
Folder 1: Letter from William T. Harris to Elizabeth Harrison., 1890-03-19
Folder 2: Letter from Baroness von Marenholts-Bulow to Elizabeth Harrison., 1890-10-19
Folder 3: Letter from Alice Hill (President, Denver Free Kindergarten Association) to Miss Dannan[?]., 1891-07-12
Folder 4: Letters from the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY, to Elizabeth Harrison., 1892
Folder 5: Letter from Kate D. Wiggin to Mrs. Crouse about kindergarten exhibit at the 1893 Columbian World's Exhibition., 1893-02-13
Folder 6: Nellie Buckingham letters to Elizabeth Harrison., 1893
Folder 7: Letters from Hamilton W. Mabie to Elizabeth Harrison., 1893 to 1894
Folder 8: Letter from Jean Carpenter to Betty [Harrison]., 1897-01-24
Folder 9: Chicago Kindergarten College Student recruitment letter, Chicago Kindergarten College, n.d.., [ca. 1891 to 1906]
Folder 10: Susan Blow letter to Elizabeth Harrison., 1908-05-29View associated digital content.
Folder 11: Letter from the Alumnae Association to Elizabeth Harrison establishing the Elizabeth Harrison Scholarship., 1904-11
Folder 12: Elizabeth Harrison letter to Mr. Bok re:  "Legend of the Christ Child," n.d.., [1907 to 1913]
Folder 13: Elizabeth Harrison letters to students from Rome, manuscripts., 1913-02 to 1913-03
Folder 14: Elizabeth Harrison letters to students from Rome, typescripts., 1913-02 to 1913-03
Folder 15: Elizabeth Harrison to Florence Thompson., 1913; ca. 1920
Folder 16: Elizabeth Harrison and National Kindergarten College students regarding Constitution, By-Laws and Charter,[photocopies]., 1916
Folder 17: Elizabeth Harrison letter to Eleanor Fulcher Bates., 1917-01-07
Folder 18: Elizabeth Harrison telegram to Mrs. D.O. Mears apologizing for not attending meeting of the Board of Managers, National Congress of Parents and Teachers., 1920-02-20
Folder 19: Elizabeth Harrison letter to Mabel [Kearns?], August 9 [no year].
Folder 20: Handwritten letter (to EDB?) about editing a report, with separate sheet indicating editing for separate paragraphs, n.d.
Folder 21: Elizabeth Harrison letter to Alice Fitts., 1920-10-30
Folder 22: Items for the Bulletin Board sent by Elizabeth Harrison to Edna Dean Baker, n.d.
Folder 23: Elizabeth Harrison/ Edna Dean Baker correspondence., After 1920
Folder 24: Elizabeth Harrison letter to "My Dear Daughters" thanking them for the gift of a Victrola [photographic copy]., After 1920
Folder 25: Elizabeth Harrison letter to Laura Hooper., 1924-05-19
Folder 26: Elizabeth Harrison letter to Mrs. Kendall., 1926-03-01
Folder 27: Notes to Ruth Storer (and 1963 letter from her daughter)., ca. 1926
Folder 28: Letter to the Editor of the Sunday-School Times ("Story of Mrs. Carrol and the bootblacks"), n.d.
Folder 29: Note given to Anne Williams.
Folder 30: Belle Woodson correspondence.
Folder 31: Correspondence regarding Francis and Jean Carpenter Arnold, n.d.
Folder 32: Miscellaneous Elizabeth Harrison Correspondence.
Folder 33: "Excerpts from Private Letters of Elizabeth Harrison," typescripts of extracts from correspondence between/among EH and the Arnolds (Francis and Jean Carpenter), Mrs. Robert E. Williams, Anne Williams, Florence Stookey., 1905 to 1927
Folder 34: "Excerpts from Private Letters of Elizabeth Harrison," typescripts of extracts from correspondence between/among EH and the Arnolds (Francis and Jean Carpenter), Mrs. Robert E. Williams, Anne Williams, Florence Stookey., 1905 to 1927
Folder 35: W.J. Snider letters to E.H., n.d.
Folder 36: Letter to E.Harrison from her last senior class, 1919
Box 2: Correspondence to the Arnolds (Francis M. and Jean Carpenter), 1905 to 1927
Originals ("typed"/"not typed" refers to the Excerpts from Private Letters" in Box 1)
Folder 1: 1905-1906View associated digital content.
Folder 2: 1907View associated digital content.
Folder 3: 1908View associated digital content.
Folder 4: 1909
Folder 5: 1910
Folder 6: 1911
Folder 7: 1912
Folder 8: 1913
Folder 9: 1914
Folder 10: 1915
Folder 11: 1916-1918
Folder 12: 1919-1920
Folder 13: 1921
Folder 14: 1922
Folder 15: 1923
Folder 16: 1924
Folder 17: 1925
Folder 18: 1926-27View associated digital content.
Folder 19: Packet of news clippings apparently sent to Francis Arnold (to be photocopied and filed with correspondence).
Folder 20: Undated

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Correspondence],
[Series 2: Publications],
[Series 3: Manuscripts/Typescripts],
[Series 4: A Course for Mothers Given by the Chicago Kindergarten College],
[Series 5: Journals/Notebooks/Scrapbooks],
[Series 6: Miscellaneous records and related materials],
[Series 7: Oversized materials, 1890-1925],
[Series 8: Ledgers of the Chicago Kindergarten College],

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