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Mother's Department (1890 to 1918) | National Louis University Archives and Special Collections

Name: Mother's Department (1890 to 1918)


Historical Note:

DEVELOPMENT, GROWTH AND DECLINE

The Mothers Department was an academic department at National-Louis University(NLU) in Chicago, Illinois from 1890-1918.i  Elizabeth Harrison, a Chicago kindergartener and founder of National-Louis University, started offering Mothers classes at her Miss Harrison's Training Class in Chicago in 1886.ii  Enrollments for these classes increased dramatically through the 1880's, and in 1890 Harrison decided to expand the Mothers Classes into a Mothers Department as part of the renamed Chicago Kindergarten Training School.iii  As the school grew into a larger and more established teachers college, the Mother's Department became more and more absorbed by the Teacher's Department.iv  Two years after the college changed its name to the National Kindergarten and Elementary College in 1917, the Mothers Department was no longer listed as a separate field of study in the college's class catalogs.v

PURPOSE

The Mother's Department was in charge of facilitating Mother's Classes for mothers in downtown Chicago as well as in communities surrounding Chicago such as Oak Park.vi  Elizabeth Harrison based the class curriculum on what she called "[Friedrich] Froebel's Science of Motherhood."  Mothers in her class learned about not only Froebel's kindergarten toys, but many other elements of his kindergarten method such as child psychology, the physical development of children, Christian philosophy, hygiene, literature, story telling, art, children's singing games and paper weaving exercises.vii  While Harrison saw a good education as key to a child's future, she also believed that mothers need to make their homes a place of quality instruction as well.viii 

STRUCTURE

The Mother's Department faculty fluctuated from five to nine teachers during its history.  Both Elizabeth Harrison and Mrs. John Nathan Crouse, who both served as the schools co-principles and as instructors in the Teachers Department, are listed as being faculty in the Mothers Department through its entire existence.  Like Harrison and Crouse, most of the teachers in the Mother's Department also served as instructors for the Teachers Department and often ran their own kindergartens or children's schools.ix  For $12, mothers could sign up for the three year program that met once a week for 23 weeks each year.  At the end of this program, the mothers would receive a Mother's Certificate.  There were also free Mother's Courses for any mother that has a child enrolled in a free kindergarten.x

Sources:

i National-Louis University has gone through several name changes since its foundation in 1886.  It started out as Miss Harrison's Training Class in 1886, became the Chicago Kindergarten Training School in 1887, the Chicago Kindergarten College in 1891, the National Kindergarten College in 1912, the National Kindergarten and Elementary College in 1917, the National College of Education in 1930 and finally National-Louis University in 1990.

ii Harrison, Elizabeth. Sketches Along Life's Road, edited by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey (Boston: Stratford Company, 1930), 106.

iii Harrison, 110.  Also Edna Dean Baker, An Adventure in Higher Education; the Story of National College of Education (Evanston: Bureau of Publications, National college of Education, 1956), 35.

iv Chicago Kindergarten College, Chicago Kindergarten College Annual Catalog 1903-1904, available at National-Louis University Archives and Special Collections Department, Chicago, 4-5.

v National Kindergarten and Elementary College, National Kindergarten and Elementary College Annual Catalog 1919-1920, available at National-Louis University Archives and Special Collections Department, Chicago, 6-7.

vi Chicago Kindergarten College, Chicago Kindergarten College Annual Catalog 1892-1893, available at National-Louis University Archives and Special Collections Department, Chicago, 19.  Also "Record of the Oak Park Mother's Class from 1890-1893," Series 5: Student Scrapbooks, box 5.  National-Louis University Archives and Special Collections Department, Chicago.

vii Chicago Kindergarten College, Chicago Kindergarten College Annual Catalog 1892-1893, 17-19.

viii Harrison, 106.

ix Chicago Kindergarten College, Chicago Kindergarten College Annual Catalog 1892-1893, 4-5.  Also National Kindergarten and Elementary College, National Kindergarten and Elementary College Annual Catalog 1919-1920, 6-7.

x Chicago Kindergarten College, Chicago Kindergarten College Annual Catalog 1892-1893, available at National-Louis University Archives and Special Collections Department, Chicago, 20.

Note Author: Nathaniel Wilson



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