Schurz kindergarten building, Watertown, Wisconsin

Schurz kindergarten building, Watertown, Wisconsin

German Social Entrepreneurs and the First Kindergartens in Nineteenth Century America

Two German women, Caroline Louisa Frankenberg and Margarethe Meyer Schurz, are credited with bringing the kindergarten movement to the nineteenth-century United States by opening kindergartens that served children of German immigrants. They conducted classes in the German language and were social entrepreneurs in that they made an innovative, long-term, social impact on the American educational system. Their primary interest was not personal financial gain, but rather the humanistic, social, and educational development of children. As word spread of their efforts, Anglo-American educators took note and grew the movement, establishing English-language kindergartens and kindergarten training schools for teachers. The creation of kindergartens fundamentally changed how Americans thought about the ideal environment for beginning a child’s education.

Two German women, Caroline Louisa Frankenberg and Margarethe Meyer Schurz, are credited with bringing the kindergarten movement to the nineteenth-century United States by opening kindergartens that served children of German immigrants. They conducted classes in the German language and were social entrepreneurs in that they made an innovative, long-term, social impact on the American educational system. Their primary interest was not personal financial gain, but rather the humanistic, social, and educational development of children. In contrast to the prevailing perception at the time, the belief that young children inherently misbehaved and lacked the aptitude to learn outside the family home, Frankenberg and Schurz nurtured children in an organic, natural way, as in a cultivated garden or “kindergarten.”[1] As word spread of their efforts, Anglo-American educators took note and grew the movement, establishing English-language kindergartens and kindergarten training schools for teachers. The creation of kindergartens fundamentally changed how Americans thought about the ideal environment for beginning a child’s education.


Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel (1782–1852), a disciple of Swiss educational reformer and pedagogue Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746–1827), was the first educator to recognize the importance of play in children’s development and founded the kindergarten movement in Germany. He also influenced, mentored, and trained both Frankenberg and Schurz prior to their arrival in the United States.[2] 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. The Social Entrepreneurship movement, formally described as such, began in the 1980s when Bill Drayton founded Ashoka, an organization that promotes the idea that everyone can be a change maker. Social entrepreneurs challenge the status quo and the way in which society views particular issues or populations that have traditionally been ignored, misunderstood, or neglected. In this case, Frankenberg and Schurz changed early childhood education and misconceptions in the United States by being the first to import German kindergarten pedagogy into the American way of life.[3]

Caroline Louisa Frankenberg (1806–1882) was single and had limited financial means.[4] She immigrated to the United States in 1836 and soon established a school for young children in Columbus, Ohio. It closed after only a few years due to both a lack of pupils and lack of financial support. She returned to Germany in 1840 for further training and tried again in 1858. She set up a kindergarten in Columbus the same year. However, this school was similarly short-lived. Margarethe Meyer Schurz (1833–1876), an heiress to a wealthy Hamburg merchant and wife of the prominent German-American statesman Carl Schurz (1829–1906), arrived in the United States in 1852. She established a kindergarten class in her home in Watertown, Wisconsin in 1856.[5]Her kindergarten survived her death in Washington, D.C. and continued until World War I when prejudice against Germans and German-Americans forced it to close.

Friedrich Froebel’s Theories and Influence

Froebel is recognized by many as one of the pioneers of modern education and the inventor of the kindergarten system. It took him nearly fifty years of experimentation, implementation, and reflection to fine tune his educational philosophy.[6] His perspective challenged contemporary thinking by taking a compassionate and respectful approach in his views of childhood and children. This new child-centered approach differed from extant educational practices and societal views in which young children were often disciplined as defective or miniature adults. Froebel was convinced that they were inherently good-natured, should be granted the freedom to self-govern, and had the intelligence and aptitude to learn through creative, imaginative, and spontaneous play. He believed that children could teach themselves lessons about harmony and beauty by playing with form, shapes, and color.[7] He also posited that young children blossom like flowers when given simple playthings and encouraged outdoor physical activity with plenty of fresh air and sunlight.[8] His focus was on child development between the ages of three and six years when children are not yet ready for conventional school work.[9]

Unlike other male educationalists of his time, who addressed their theories to other men whom they considered their intellectual peers, Froebel directly addressed women. He maintained that women should conduct the kindergartens after completing training programs under the auspices of a national pedagogical theory.[10] He sought to unify all things, believed that man and nature were created by the same eternal Being (God), and maintained that early childhood education was an extension of mothering.[11] His lectures were addressed to mothers, children’s nurses, and potential teachers.[12] His principles were revolutionary for the time. His framework for the kindergarten school day began with simple, cheerful songs that fostered socialization, cooperative learning, and natural growth. Lessons with balls and cubes followed. Froebel maintained that children should not be indoctrinated but rather allowed to develop mental capacities by engaging the world around them through natural curiosity.[13]

Froebel’s teaching materials encouraged this growth through “gifts” (Gaben).[14] In the 1830s, he designed a series of toys (gifts) that were to be given to children in a pre-planned sequence to foster learning through kindergarten play and experiment. They ranged from soft balls in primary colors and wooden blocks in different shades for rudimentary building, to sticks in various lengths for laying and designing, and strips of colored paper for weaving, among others.[15] His pedagogy had a mental dimension in which the teacher handled the ball with the child, both making a conscious attempt to consider what it feels like to contemplate, grasp, and possess a whole.[16] Activities in the first kindergartens included self-directed play, stitching, sketching, building, weaving, exercise, gardening, singing, dancing, and group games.[17]

Froebel first implemented his educational principles in a preschool, which he founded in Blankenburg, Thuringia in 1837. His preschool differed from the existing ones that were church-run day-care facilities. The teachers were typically men, the children were from the poorer classes, and the pedagogy was based on the Christian doctrine of original sin in which children were viewed as inherently bad or marked by sin.[18] Froebel had yet to coin the word “kindergarten” and objected to the word “school,” naming his new venture “The Institution for Play and Occupation” (Spiel- und Beschäftigungsanstalt). He started using the word “Kindergarten” in 1840 and the first printed occurrence was hyphenated, as “Kinder-Garten.” During the next ten years, several kindergartens were established in Germany. He also created a program to train kindergarten teachers and established the first institute to train women in Keilhau, Thuringia in the early 1840s.[19]

When Froebel went on the lecture circuit to promote his ideas, however, the Prussian government burned his books and viewed him with skepticism if not disdain, prompting authorities to close all kindergartens and denouncing Froebel and his supporters as socialists and revolutionaries whose activities were destructive to the family. Church leaders often condemned attempts to establish kindergartens, referring to them as atheistic and evil.[20] The Prussian monarchy banned kindergartens from 1851 until 1860; however they continued to operate privately and in areas not under its jurisdiction, such as the free city state of Hamburg, one of the world’s largest shipping and trade centers.[21] For this reason, he was able to lecture in Hamburg and to establish a training school for kindergarten teachers there in 1849–1850. It was in Hamburg that he met the Meyer sisters, Berthe and Margarethe.

Transatlantic Entrepreneurial Efforts

There are competing claims as to which woman established the first kindergarten in America. Most researchers and residents of Wisconsin credit Schurz while many others, particularly in Ohio, maintain Frankenberg deserves the recognition. The operative word is “established,” with Frankenberg conducting the first class and Schurz establishing the first kindergarten.[22] Frankenberg made the first attempt to open a school for young children in 1836, and although it may have resembled a kindergarten, Froebel hadn’t coined the word until 1840. In 1838, however, Froebel stated in his publication, Ein Sonntagsblatt (A Sunday Paper) that the school in Columbus, Ohio, as well as those in Blankenburg, Keilhau, and Burgdorf in the Canton of Berne, Switzerland, had been founded based on his principles.[23] Moreover, Frankenberg’s school closed within a few years whereas Schurz’s kindergarten, established in 1856, continued even after she moved away and her husband’s political career flourished elsewhere.[24]

Caroline Louisa Frankenberg, a student of Froebel, arrived in the New World prior to Schurz and made the first attempt to establish a school based on Froebel’s theories for young children. She was a highly trained teacher by profession who opened her school for the purposes of making a living.[25] She had spent several years training with Froebel and lived in his household in Keilhau before arriving in America.[26] Encouraged by Froebel, she went to Columbus, Ohio, where friends from Germany and three of her brothers had settled as farmers. (Froebel himself had once considered immigrating to the United States, believing his methods could flourish there; however, he couldn’t speak English and was advancing in age.)[27] Frankenberg opened her school in 1836 and while her methods were based on Froebel’s principles, it was not a kindergarten in the purest form. In fact, she called her new venture, “A School for the Active Instincts of Childhood and Youth.”[28] Regina Weilbach Rosier points out that the name of the school reflects Frankenberg’s mission and intent, namely to enroll children from a wide range of ages and to focus on Froebel’s emphasis on active learning.[29] The school, however, closed due to a lack of pupils and financial support and she returned to Germany in 1840.

Under Froebel’s direction, Frankenberg taught at his institute in Keilhau for six years from 1840 to 1846. She landed a kindergarten teaching position in Dresden in 1847 and opened her own kindergarten in 1852 in Bautzen.[30] Determined to try again in the States, she returned to Columbus, established residency, and in 1858 opened a kindergarten in the same small, one-story house she had used two decades earlier.[31] Tuition for each child was 75 cents per week (or $20.50 in 2010 dollars) and her pupils were the children of German immigrants.[32] She supplemented her income by selling handmade lace and embroidery and taught the children how to make lace to be sold as well. Locals referred to her school as a “play school,” because when they looked in the windows, they saw children playing as opposed to reading books. The idea that children could learn by playing, singing, marching, modeling clay, and making paper birds or boats seemed superfluous and simply child’s play. Even German-American immigrants already settled in the area had difficulty comprehending the pedagogical value of her unconventional methods.[33] In a newspaper article from 1861, she encouraged parents to visit her school and garden and stated that she needed 12 more children in addition to her current five to keep the school open.[34] She advertised in The Ohio State Journal and the Der Westbote, the local German newspaper, but her success was brief and she was only able to enroll a few more children despite Columbus having a large German population at the time.[35] Unlike Margarethe Schurz, she never learned to speak English, which most likely contributed to her inability to promote her own school within the English-speaking community or to garner support from American patrons. One of her advertisements, for example, was delayed when newspaper staff had difficulty translating the word “kindergarten.”[36]

Around 1862, Frankenberg fell on the ice and suffered a long-term disability, most likely a broken hip. She moved in with relatives in Zanesville, Ohio where she opened a kindergarten. In 1865, she moved into a Lutheran home for orphans and the infirm in Germantown, Pennsylvania, where she established a kindergarten within the orphanage the same year.[37] Elizabeth Jenkins reported that the kindergarten was still in operation as of her writing in 1930.[38] Frankenberg died of old age on November 4, 1882 in the Lutheran Home.[39] Fire destroyed the documentation attesting to Frankenberg’s kindergarten; however, family, friends, relatives and former pupils confirmed her efforts. Over the years, other women attempted to operate kindergartens in Columbus but with sporadic success. It wasn’t until 1912 that the Columbus public schools installed kindergartens, however the catastrophic economy of the Great Depression led to their elimination. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs allowed for their return in the 1940s.[40]

Similar to Frankenberg, Schurz set up her kindergarten in her house, however she neither advertised nor charged tuition. This might explain why her kindergarten is often overlooked in early educational and/or historical documents. She came from a privileged family and benefited from financial security upon her arrival in America. She was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1833 and was an accomplished woman of high socio-economic standing who played the piano, sang, read, and could speak English reasonably well. She was the youngest of four children and her mother died at her birth. She was raised by an aunt and was ten years old when her father died. Her older brothers were affluent sugarcane merchants like their father and assumed financial responsibility for her upon his death. The lack of parental involvement in her own childhood education could have been one of the driving forces to nurture her children as best she could, compensating for what she had lacked in her own childhood.[41]

In comparison to Frankenberg, who was a teacher by profession, Schurz opened her kindergarten on behalf of her three-year-old daughter Agathe in 1856. Yet, it appears that because she was so enthused about the kindergarten concept, she would have opened one without children of her own.[42] It began as a private gathering of playmates for her eldest child Agathe and grew by word of mouth.[43]

The establishment of the Schurz kindergarten in Watertown, Wisconsin has its origins in Christian-Jewish relations in early nineteenth-century Germany, which at the time consisted of numerous small states. It wasn’t until 1871 that the German states were unified politically and administratively into a nation state (the German empire). Margarethe’s parents were part of the Jewish upper bourgeoisie, the educated business class, and promoted a broad cultural and social outlook. Her father, Heinrich Meyer, was a progressive, socially liberal merchant who opened his home to artists, writers, scientists, musicians and intellectuals.[44] The Meyer family had been established in Hamburg’s trading community for nearly a century. Like many of their associates, however, family members were dissatisfied with the political situation for both personal and professional reasons. A fragmented, turbulent Germany was not optimal for conducting business and it allowed for continual discrimination against traditionally marginalized groups, such as peasants and Jews.[45] Anti-Jewish feelings, prejudice, and negative stereotypes persisted since the Middle Ages and imbued German society.[46] Even the Brothers Grimm in the second edition of their Children’s and Household Tales (Kinder- und Hausmärchen) (1815) introduced animosity toward Jews in a tale meant for children, “The Jew in the Thorns” (“Der Jude im Dorn”).[47] At the time, Hamburg had a large Jewish population who faced a number of restrictions on their civil rights: they were excluded from many traditional occupations, the professions, and from public office, and were also taxed more heavily than other groups.[48] German Jews did not receive full civil rights until 1871, after the establishment of the empire of Germany, five years prior to Margarethe’s death at age forty-three in the United States.

As German-Jewish women, Margarethe and her older sister Berthe faced additional challenges that limited their professional development in or outside the home. For example, German women were not granted voting rights until 1919 (compared with 1920 for American women).[49] It is against this backdrop that Berthe established a reading group in Hamburg in the late 1840s with a Jewish author named Johanna Schwabe Goldschmidt. The two women had become friends after Berthe read Goldschmidt’s book Rebekka and Amalia (1847), a fictional series of letters between a Jewish woman and a Christian woman that dealt with the suffering caused by anti-Judaism. They formed a group of eight Jewish women and eight Christian women to encourage friendship between Jews and Christians.[50] Concerned about the future, they turned their attention to the training of young children and how best to instill mutual understanding and empathy toward others. With this in mind, they invited Froebel to Hamburg in 1849–1850 to explain his new, unorthodox educational methods. At age sixteen, Margarethe Meyer attended Froebel’s lectures and, like her older sister, immediately embraced his principles. Their older brother, Adolf Meyer, and Berthe’s husband, Johannes Ronge (1813–1887), also became kindergarten advocates.[51] Because of the Meyer family’s wealth and influence, they were able to promote the idea not only in Hamburg, but also eventually in England and the United States with Adolf lending financial support to establishing kindergartens.[52] Margarethe had taken such copious notes during Froebel’s lectures that when he saw her journal he asked if he could edit it for publication. Her manuscript, however, was lost in the mail between Hamburg and Berlin when sent on loan to the publisher just after Froebel’s death in 1852.[53]

Berthe and Johannes Ronge opened kindergartens in Germany in 1849 and 1850.[54] After the democratic revolution of 1848–1849 failed in Germany, Berthe and her husband, a revolutionary and former priest, went to London in 1851 and settled in area with other German refugees. There they opened an “infant garden” the same year for the purposes of earning a living. Their kindergartens were the first Froebelian kindergartens in England and the first outside German lands. They were located in St. John’s Wood, a suburb of London, and in Manchester.[55] Shortly afterward, when Berthe became ill, Margarethe, then eighteen, went to assist her sister and also to help manage the kindergarten. Their first pupils were children of other German refugees but English children soon joined. Late that year, Margarethe met her brother-in-law’s friend and fellow revolutionary, Carl Schurz, in her sister’s home. They married July 10, 1852 in London’s St. Marylebone Parish Church and immigrated to America the same year.[56]

After several moves and transatlantic trips, they relocated to Watertown, Wisconsin, in August 1856, where Schurz’s parents and sisters had settled. In 1855, Watertown had a substantial German-American community and was the second largest city in Wisconsin with a population of approximately 10,000.[57] It was an emerging economic center, which garnered the attention of Carl Schurz who had heard rumors of it becoming a great railway center.[58] Although homesick and plagued by a lung ailment and depression throughout her life, Schurz organized a kindergarten in her sitting room (parlor) for her daughter in the summer of 1856. She was twenty-four years old and conducted her class in German and according to Froebel’s educational principles.

The first four kindergarteners in the Schurz kindergarten were the daughters of Carl Schurz’s sisters, the cousins of Margarethe’s two daughters, three-year-old Agathe Schurz, nicknamed Handi, and her younger sister Marianne, nicknamed Pussy and not yet one year old.[59] They sang simple songs, played games, and played with the toys Schurz made. The children referred to her as Tante Margarethe (Aunt Margarethe). They also played with the gift boxes or “Gaben” she had brought from Europe and had ready for them each day. Schurz’s kindergarten began as an informal gathering, but when her neighbors heard about the children’s achievements and as winter approached, they asked if their children could join. Schurz agreed to open her kindergarten to others and it became a more formal class setting.[60] The Schurz home, however, was located on the northern edge of town. To accommodate more children and her husband’s need for peace and quiet, she moved her kindergarten to the center of Watertown where it was more convenient to attend. The move took place in November 1856 and this is the date generally designated as the establishment of her kindergarten and the first in the United States.[61] She held her classes entirely in German in a small house that belonged to her in-laws located on Jones and Second Streets.[62] Schurz led the kindergarten through 1857 and until 1858 when she moved with Carl to Milwaukee where he intended to practice law. They planned to spend winters in Milwaukee and summers in Watertown and became residents of Milwaukee in 1859.[63] While in Milwaukee, the Schurz family renewed their friendship with the Engelmann family. Peter Engelmann had founded the German English Academy (also known as the Engelmann School) in Milwaukee in 1851. He was receptive to Schurz’s new educational ideas and added a kindergarten to his academy. Other city schools soon implemented reforms as well and Wisconsin’s first public kindergarten was opened in Manitowoc, Wisconsin in 1873.[64]

In 1859, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody (1804–1894) met the Schurzes while they were in Boston visiting mutual friends. Peabody, a highly respected intellectual, writer, educator, and independent publisher at the time, later wrote that this chance encounter was one of the turning points in the American educational system.[65] She admired how quiet, well behaved, and independent their daughter Agathe was in comparison to their friend’s misbehaving children, and assumed she was a product of a miraculous European education. She referred to Agathe Schurz as a miracle who had a calming effect on the unruly children. Schurz corrected her and stated that her daughter was no miracle but rather a normal kindergartener, a child brought up in a kindergarten. She added that a kindergarten is “a garden whose plants are humans” and centers on organized play.[66] She agreed to loan Peabody a section from Froebel’s handbook, Die Menschenerziehung (1826) (The Education of Man), which eventually inspired Peabody to go to Germany in 1867 to see first-hand Froebel’s kindergartens.[67]

The kindergarten concept piqued Peabody’s interest because it was vastly different from nineteenth-century American schooling, which was formal, strict, and focused on memorization.[68] Peabody established the first English-speaking kindergarten in the United States in Boston in 1860 and began actively fundraising and lecturing to sustain her school. She is referred to as the “apostle of the American kindergarten” or founder of the American kindergarten because she deserves much of the credit for integrating the kindergarten into American culture.[69] Meeting Schurz had been a turning point in her life, but it is important to note that she also visited Frankenberg in the Lutheran Home in Pennsylvania before Frankenberg died. During the visits, which were documented by the Lutheran home, Frankenberg elaborated on Froebel’s methods and practices which Peabody implemented in her own school in Boston.[70] The fact that Frankenberg’s kindergarten in Columbus was short-lived pales in significance when compared with the knowledge she passed on to Peabody who then championed the cause and led the kindergarten movement in the United States. By sharing her expertise with Peabody, Frankenberg made her entrepreneurial kindergarten work sustainable in North America.

Peabody opened the first kindergarten training school in America, founded the monthly journal The Kindergarten Messenger in 1873, and went on to train thousands of kindergarten teachers, thereby creating the faculty to staff the American movement.[71] In 1863, she published a book with her sister Mary Tyler Peabody Mann entitled Moral Culture of Infancy and Kindergarten Guide.[72] Peabody appears to have been aware of Schurz’s kindergarten because she gave a talk at a teachers’ convention in Watertown, Wisconsin in 1870. The title of her talk was, “Genuine Kindergarten versus Ignorant Attempts at It.”[73]

In her article, “Origin and Growth of the Kindergarten,” published in 1882, Peabody underscored the importance of Berthe Meyer Ronge’s kindergarten work by noting that Henry Barnard, an American educator who visited the London kindergarten in 1854, gave the first public use of the word “kindergarten” in the United States when he gave a paper at the conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Education in 1854 titled the “The Educational Exhibition of London, and the Recent Educational Movements in Great Britain.”[74] Peabody recognized the pioneering contributions of the German women and her efforts to further the cause led to a profound interest in Froebel among kindergarten enthusiasts in the decades prior to the World War I. As for Ronge, other women in England followed her lead and opened several private kindergartens between 1850 and 1870.[75] In 1867, Peabody mentioned her in correspondence, referring to her as the elder sister of Carl Schurz’s wife and as a “very admirable woman” who befriended all who were in trouble.[76]

The American kindergarten movement continued to gain momentum at the turn of the century. By this time, an International Kindergarten Union (IKU) had been established in 1892 for the professional development of kindergarten teachers.[77] By October 1910, members of the organization were planning a 1911 meeting in Germany that would include a pilgrimage to Froebel’s haunts in 1911.[78] They expressed interest in the public German kindergartens starting to be established in major German cities, the publication of a complete edition of Froebel’s works to be issued in the German Pedagogic Series, and the possibility of visiting kindergartens in London and Paris prior to being received in Berlin with a reception and kindergarten exhibit. Their German counterparts proposed an itinerary included a stop in Bonn, Germany for a seminar on training kindergarteners, a session in Frankfurt depicting the history of the German kindergarten movement through “living pictures” that illustrated customs of different regions, and children’s work from both private and public German kindergartens from various cities. The rest of their trip included a visit to Froebel’s grave where they could lay wreaths and flowers, a visit to the Froebel Museum in Eisenach, and a trip to the Blankenburg kindergarten.

Eight months later, in the June 1911 edition ofThe Journal of Education, the editor published a circular letter, a “German Welcome,” in English from Irma Dresdner, Secretary of the German Froebel Union, addressed to her “constituents” and expanding on the proposed trip agenda.[79] She mentioned that the program details had been worked out with thanks going to the American committee and the German kindergarten associations (Allgemein International Kindergartnerinnen Verein and the Froebel Verband).[80] She also explained that it was important to Froebel to extend his educational system to free America, a country “unhampered by tradition.”[81] Dresdner noted that the “practical sense” of the Americans allowed them to quickly grasp the significance of his educational principles, such as self-activity and intuition, and for this reason kindergartens had a stronghold in the American school system. One month later in July 1911, ninety teachers traveled to Germany to participate in this trip and subsequently published a glowing review of their experiences in the November issue of The Journal of Education.[82] Indeed, by 1912, Froebel’s books had been translated into English and enjoyed immense popularity, including his Mother and Nursery Songs, also known as Mother Play and Nursery Songs (Mutter und Koselieder), which had been published with at least sixteen editions and The Education of Man had gone through twenty editions.[83]

Private schools established by earlier German immigrants and bilingual schools such as those in Louisville, Kentucky, Detroit, Michigan, and Newark, New Jersey, were some of the first to embrace elements of kindergarten pedagogy.[84] Examples include the Das Germanish-Englische Institut von Knapp founded in Baltimore in 1853, Die Deutsch-amerikanische Elementar- und Realschule founded in Newark, New Jersey, in 1856, Die Beacon-Street-Schule, also established in Newark, in 1858, and Die Hoboken-Academy (Hoboken, New Jersey) in 1861.[85] Dr. Adolph Douai (1819–1888), a German-American and “Forty-Eighter,” was the headmaster of the three-class Deutsch-Englische Schule in Boston, which added a Froebelian kindergarten in 1859. Douai was an educational reformer, socialist, and labor leader and had organized a German workingmen’s club. The club helped to establish the school and the kindergarten continued to operate for at least another 29 years.[86] Douai left Boston in 1860 and moved with his family to Hoboken, New Jersey where he founded the Hoboken Academy, a German-American school, which he led until 1868.[87] Of interest is the fact that E. Steiger, who published Douai’s kindergarten manual, was aware of Margarethe Schurz’s kindergarten in 1871. He sent a copy of the book to her in Washington DC where she and her husband lived when Carl Schurz was elected US senator from Missouri in 1869. The book included a short, handwritten letter dated February 18, 1871 and was written on Steiger’s office letterhead, which read, “E. Steiger, German News Agent, Importer and Bookseller, Publisher and Printer, 22 & 24 Frankfort Street, New York.” He addressed the letter to Frau Senator Schurz in Washington DC and included Douai’s The Kindergarten.[88] E. Steiger must have known about the Schurz kindergarten if he bothered to forward the book to her.[89]

Other German immigrants established German-language kindergartens in the United States, but most were short lived.[90] Between 1870 and 1880, the number of English-language kindergartens spanned 30 states and increased from 12 to 400. The first public school kindergarten was established in St. Louis, Missouri in 1873.[91] Susan Elizabeth Blow (1843–1916) is credited with opening the first kindergarten affiliated with a public school district in St. Louis. She had become acquainted with Froebel’s work two years earlier when her family was touring Europe. She came from a privileged family, did not accept any pay the eleven years she ran the kindergarten, and donated supplies to future kindergartens. In 1874, she opened a training school for kindergarten teachers to meet the growing demand who in turn helped spread the movement. Blow is sometimes referred to as the “Mother of Kindergarten” and helped to establish the International Kindergarten Union. She lectured widely and wrote several articles and books related to Froebel’s philosophy and kindergarten education. She also translated two volumes of Froebel’s Mother Play and Nursery Songs into English.

Prior to opening the first public kindergarten, she had gone to New York to study Froebelian education with one of his disciples, Maria Kraus-Boelte (1836–1918).[92] Maria Kraus-Boelte was a German-American educator who trained kindergarten teachers. She, too, came from a privileged family, trained with Froebel’s widow in Hamburg, Germany, and taught with the Ronges in their kindergarten in London. At the request of Elizabeth Peabody, she went to the United States in 1872 and opened a kindergarten in New York. In 1873, she married John Kraus, a German-born kindergarten enthusiast who had previously immigrated to America. They established the New York Seminary for Kindergartners, an institution for training kindergarten teachers which incorporated a model kindergarten. The institution went on to train and teach thousands of teachers and children. In 1877, E. Steiger, Douai’s publisher, published the Krauses’ two-volume handbook, The Kindergarten Guide: An Illustrated Hand-Book Designed for the Self-Instruction of Kindergartners, Mothers, and Nurses.[93] Decades after the chance encounter between Schurz and Peabody, some of Froebel’s original symbolism and mysticism were omitted or deleted from the kindergarten curriculum and replaced with everyday life experiences. By 1930, most large American cities operated public kindergartens with enrollment reaching 723,443 children.[94]

After her encounter with Peabody in Boston, Schurz spent brief periods of time with her family and relatives in Europe. When Carl Schurz was elected to the U.S. Senate (from Missouri) in 1868, his career took them to Washington, DC where they established a residence in 1869. Schurz focused her attention on her children and household and died March 15, 1876, two days after giving birth to her second son and fifth child.[95] Despite living in Watertown only three years, her kindergarten continued to operate after her departure. After the Schurz family left the area, other women ran the kindergarten, starting with Carl Schurz’s cousin, Miss Jüssen, followed by Mrs. Rose Kunert, and then Mrs. Kunert’s sister, Tante Elle Koenig, who took it over in 1876 and ran it as a private German kindergarten for 42 years. When the German language became unpopular during World War I, she chose to close the kindergarten rather than continue in the English language.[96] The original small-framed house has been preserved and has been open to the public since 1957. It was moved in 1956 from downtown Watertown to its present location atop Richards’ Hill.[97] Although the Schurz home is no longer standing, the legacy and memory of Margarethe Schurz’s kindergarten has been kept alive to the present day. The Carl Schurz Association celebrates her efforts at their annual German-American Day held in August at the Carl Schurz Memorial Park in Hartland, Wisconsin.

Social Impact and Conclusion

The social, humanistic, and educational impact of Froebel’s transatlantic kindergarten movement has endured centuries, as has the German expression Kindergarten, which he defined and formally applied in 1840.[98] Early kindergarten enthusiasts, whether German or American, always preferred the German word as opposed to an English translation so as to be clear that this particular learning environment was in accordance with Froebel’s educational practices, spirit, and intent.[99] Today, kindergartens have become institutionalized and can be found around the world. Some even include virtual exchange programs. German children, similar to Agathe Schurz, are typically at least three years old when they begin kindergarten, whereas American children under the age of five attend pre-kindergarten. Since the early twentieth century, American children have had the option of attending pre-kindergarten classes run by private organizations. In 1965, the U.S. Head Start program, the nation’s first federally funded pre-kindergarten program, was established to meet the needs of children from low-income families.

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. Frankenberg and Schurz invested in human capital, which has since served the public interest and influenced the early childhood development of many individuals who benefited from kindergarten pedagogy, such as Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959).

In his autobiography, Wright, considered by many as one of the greatest American architects of the twentieth century, credits Froebel’s kindergarten method and his geometric wood blocks with influencing his architectural design.[100] His mother had attended the United States Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876 and purchased Froebel’s gifts for her son.[101] She also started a kindergarten in her home. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Wright learned to think about assembling things in different ways, to look at the world from various perspectives, and to establish a geometric clarity in his architectural designs. He is renowned for his “organic architecture” philosophy in which he designed structures that worked in harmony with natural surroundings. Froebel’s kindergarten philosophy also shaped the work of American designer Charles Eames (1907–1978) and of Helen Keller (1880–1968), who became one of the biggest patrons of Froebelian kindergartens in the United States.[102]

Conducting kindergartens in German did not meet resistance in the United States until the outbreak of the First World War. In The Journal of Education dated March 14, 1918, an editorial entitled “German Propaganda in Schools” discussed the American Defense Society’s attempts to eliminate the study of German in high schools and elementary schools. On the page immediately following, a second editorial piece listed the top American cities with kindergartens, noting that in 1916 alone, 140 cities had opened kindergartens. The editorial made no comment about the German origins of the word and did not draw any connection to the previous article. The German-American concept of kindergartens had been so well assimilated into American culture that the institutions themselves survived the anti-German hysteria of the First World War. Winship stated that 31 cities had kindergartens for all children and that New York and New Jersey had the largest percentage of children enrolled in kindergartens. Winship’s statistics counted 936 kindergartens in New York City, 376 in Chicago, 271 in Philadelphia, 186 in Cleveland, 161 in St. Louis, 147 in Boston, 137 in Los Angeles, 134 in Milwaukee, 121 in Buffalo, 116 in Detroit, and 102 in Newark.[103] Most of these cities had large German-American populations. A German-born educator, Emma Jacobina Christiana Marwedel (1818–1893), had brought the movement to the West Coast in 1876. In 1878, one of her students, Kate Douglas Wiggin (1856–1923), led the first free kindergarten on the West Coast, San Francisco’s Silver Street kindergarten. Wiggin also helped to establish the California Kindergarten Training School and led the kindergarten education movement in the United States.[104]

During World War II, some in the United States suggested changing the word Kindergarten to “play class,” “pastime class,” “juvenile class,” “primer school,” or “children’s center.”[105] Today, teaching empathy to children, as the Meyer sisters did when they first sought to improve Christian-Jewish relations in Hamburg, has also encountered challenges and recently become a priority for social entrepreneurs involved in childhood education. In 2015, “Start Empathy,” an initiative by Ashoka, partnered with the Entertainment Industry Foundation to launch “Think It Up,” a national educational campaign that prioritizes empathy in American schools.[106] The transfer of cultural capital from nineteenth-century Germany to the United States has been immeasurable in the number of kindergarteners who grew from their experiences and passed on their learning outcomes to subsequent generations: promoting active learning, creating harmonious relationships in one’s environment, and getting along with others. Frankenberg and Schurz, as well as the many American educators they subsequently impacted, recognized the importance of early engagement with children and the vital role it played in meeting their physical, emotional, and social needs. Prior to introducing Froebel’s kindergarten pedagogy to Peabody, child culture and childhood education had been perceived in vastly different ways in nineteenth-century America. Similar to other social entrepreneurs, they made a long-term impact on society that continues to benefit German and American children alike.


[1] “Kinder” is the German word for children and “Garten” is the German word for garden.

[2] The German spelling of his surname is Fröbel; however, most English-language references use the English spelling.

[3] See Ashoka: Innovators for the Public for more information about Bill Drayton and Social Entrepreneurship, (accessed January 21, 2016).

[4] Some sources indicate Frankenberg was born in Hanover, Germany, but most maintain she was born in Eddigehausen near Göttingen in the Kingdom of Saxony, the seventh of eight children. Her first, middle, and surnames have been spelled in various ways in the scholarship. Rosier, “Frankenberg”; Ruth M. Baylor, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody: Kindergarten Pioneer (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1965), 33; Ann Taylor Allen, “American and German Women in the Kindergarten Movement, 1850–1914,” in German Influences on Education in the United States to 1917, ed. Henry Geitz, Jürgen Heideking, and Jurgen Herbst (Washington, DC: German Historical Institute, 1995), 85–101, here 88.

[5] Carl Schurz later served as the U.S. minister to Spain (1861–1862), as a major general in the Union Army during the Civil War, and as a U.S. senator from Missouri (1869–1875). He, however, had no professional skills upon his arrival in New York harbor and would have been a penniless refugee if not for his wife. He had no finances of his own to launch a political career or to support his family. He depended on his wife’s substantial inheritance for income the first ten years of their marriage, including their early years in America. Her dowry, estimated between $12,000 and $15,000 at the time (i.e., between $318,000 and $398,000 in 2010 dollars, using 1856 as the baseline), afforded him the time and opportunity to study the political situation in their new homeland and to learn the language. Dora Edinger, “Frau Karl Schurz, die Gründerin des Kindergartens in Amerika,” Carl Schurz Collection, Milwaukee County Historical Society; Hannah Swart, “Margarethe Schurz,” in Famous Wisconsin Women, ed. Women’s Auxiliary (Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1975), 33–35; Hannah Werwath Swart, Margarethe Meyer Schurz: A Biography (Watertown, WI: Watertown Historical Society, 1967), 23–26. For calculation of relative monetary values, see Samuel H. Williamson, “Seven Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount, 1774 to present,” MeasuringWorth, using the Consumer Price Index (, accessed April 5, 2016).

[6] Elizabeth Jenkins, “How the Kindergarten Found Its Way to America,” Wisconsin Magazine of History, 14, no. 1 (1930): 48–62, here 54.

[7] Jeannine Blackwell, “Domesticating the Revolution: The Kindergarten Movement in Germany and America,” in Teaching German in America: Prolegomena to a History, ed. David P. Benseler, Walter F.W. Lohnes, and Valters Nollendorfs (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988), 99–119, here 100.

[8] Froebel had once been a forestry apprentice and botanist and had a strong affinity for nature and the study thereof. Blackwell, “Domesticating the Revolution,” 100.

[9] William T. Harris, preface to The Education of Man, by Friedrich Froebel (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1899), viii.

[10] Blackwell, “Domesticating the Revolution,” 104–106. For Froebel, “national” meant the German-speaking states given that Germany wasn’t unified until 1871.

[11] Greta Anderson, More than Petticoats: Remarkable Wisconsin Women (Guilford, CT: TwoDot, 2004), 39–40.

[12] Jürgen Eichhoff, “Kindergarten and its Progeny in American English,” Monatshefte 80, no. 1 (1988): 82–95, here 86.

[13] Ibid., 82.

[14] Ibid., 82.

[15] Most sources list ten gifts. Herbert Kohl mentions a total of twenty gifts. Herbert Kohl, foreword to How Kindergarten Came to America: Friedrich Froebel’s Radical Vision of Early Childhood Education, by Bertha von Marenholtz-Bülow (New York: New Press, 2007), xi. Originally published in the United States as The Reminiscences of Friedrich Froebel (1877). Jeannine Blackwell also described twenty gifts, reprinted from Papers on Froebel’s Kindergarten, with Suggestions on Principles and Methods of Child Culture in Different Countries, edited by Henry Barnard and published by the American Journal of Education Press in 1890. Blackwell, “Domesticating the Revolution,” 104–106.

[16] Anderson, More than Petticoats, 42. In contrast to Pestalozzi, Froebel was a philosopher and believed there must be an inner connection between the child’s mind and the objects he feels and studies. Harris, The Education of Man, v.

[17] “The Kindergarten: The Garden Where Children Grow,” Der Blumenbaum, Sacramento German Genealogy Society Newsletter (Sacramento, CA), January/February/March 2009, 135. The games were created to develop civil and moral virtues. One of Froebel’s objectives in his educational system was to cultivate selfhood and repress selfishness. The toy and game manufacturer Milton Bradley produced sets of Froebel’s gifts as well as games and toys that incorporated many of his radical ideas. Kohl, How Kindergarten Came to America, vii, xii.

[18] Kohl, How Kindergarten Came to America, xiv.

[19] Ibid., xiv. Eichhoff, “Kindergartenand its Progeny in American English,” 82–83.

[20] Blackwell, “Domesticating the Revolution,” 99, 107.

[21] Eichhoff, “Kindergarten and its Progeny in American English,” 82–83. Karl-Heinz Günther, “Interdependenzen zwischen der demokratischen Pädagogik in Deutschland und der Bildungsentwicklung in den USA in der Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts – Beispiele,” paper presented at the international symposium on Mutual Influences on Education: Germany and the United States, Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies, Madison, WI, September 15, 1990). Froebel died in 1852 and did not live to see the reinstatement of kindergartens in his home country.

[22] Baylor, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, 38.

[23] Baylor, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, 32. Eichhoff, “Kindergarten and its Progeny in American English,” 82. Sylvester L. Quam and William Jannke, III, Handi and Pussy Go to Kindergarten (Watertown, WI: Watertown Historical Society, 1990), 2.

[24] At the request of Congressman Glenn Davis, the staff at the Library of Congress researched the claims and in 1955 declared the Schurz kindergarten to be the first in America. The chief researcher was Helen A. Miller and her report is dated March 24, 1955. First Kindergarten in the United States (Watertown, WI: Watertown Historical Society, 1995), 2.

[25] Eichhoff, “Kindergarten and its Progeny in American English,” 85.

[26] Frankenberg’s older brother Adolph was a teacher in Keilhau and friend of Froebel. Regina Weilbacher Rosier, “Caroline Louisa Frankenberg: A Froebelian Kindergartener Who Must Be Remembered,” Froebel Foundation, (accessed January 25, 2016).

[27] Baylor, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, 28.

[28] Gerald Tebben, “Columbus Mileposts: Nov. 4, 1882 – Kindergarten Apostle Tried Concept in City,” Columbus Dispatch, November 4, 2012, (accessed January 23, 2016). Rosier, “Frankenberg.”

[29] For Froebel, “childhood” included children between the ages of three and seven. Rosier, “Frankenberg.” It wasn’t until 1837 that Froebel fully conceptualized his idea when he opened his own school in Blankenburg, and it wasn’t until 1840 that he came up with the word “kindergarten.” Jenkins, “How the Kindergarten Found Its Way to America,” 59; “The Kindergarten: Where Children Grow,” 134.

[30] Rosier, “Frankenberg.” Jenkins, “How the Kindergarten Found Its Way to America,” 59. Eichhoff, “Kindergarten and its Progeny in American English,” 85.

[31] Jenkins, “How the Kindergarten Found Its Way to America,” 59. The house was located at the southeast corner of Rich Street and Pearl Alley (Street) near the business section of Columbus. As of 1901, a locksmith occupied the front room with his shop and tenants were in the back rooms. “Home of Play School: Where First American Kindergarten Was Started,” The Chicago Eagle, June 1, 1901.

According to Chester Winter, the house was replaced first by Baker’s Art Gallery and then by the City Center Mall. Chester C. Winter, “Columbus, Birthplace of American Kindergartens,” (accessed January 21, 2016). See also Ruth Young White, ed., We Too Built Columbus (Columbus: Stoneman Press, 1936). A marker where the kindergarten once operated was placed there and an unveiling of the historical site took place in 1989. The marker is outside the downtown garage by the City Center Mall (Columbus Commons). Rosier, “Frankenberg”; Teppen, “Columbus Mileposts.”

[32] This weekly tuition equated to the approximate daily wage of a Columbus brewery worker at that time. Tebben, “Columbus Mileposts.” Dollar figures are converted using the Purchasing Power Calculator; see Williamson, “Seven Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount.” However, an alternative measure which compares labor value in 1858 with the labor value in 2010 indicates that 75 cents in 1858 is roughly equivalent to $135 in 2010.

[33] “Home of Play School.”

[34] Quoted in Tebben, “Columbus Mileposts.” See also Galicich, The German Americans, 103; “The Kindergarten: Where Children Grow,” 135; Jenkins, “How the Kindergarten Found Its Way to America,” 60.

[35] “Home of Play School.”

[36] Rosier, “Frankenberg”; Jenkins, “How the Kindergarten Found Its Way to America,” 60; Winter, “Columbus.”

[37] “Home of Play School”; Rosier, “Frankenberg”; Baylor, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, 33.

[38] Jenkins, “How the Kindergarten Found Its Way to America,” 60.

[39] Eichhoff, “Kindergarten and its Progeny in American English,” 85. Most sources indicate Frankenberg died on November 4, however, Rosier states the date is November 8, 1882. The name of the Lutheran Home was the Orphans’ Home and Asylum for the Aged and Infirm of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Teppen, “Columbus Mileposts.”

[40] Winter, “Columbus.” The first training school for kindergarten teachers in Ohio was also established in Columbus. One of the women who trained there, “Misses Eddy,” opened the first kindergarten in Chicago. “Home of Play School.” However, the early kindergartens and training schools in Columbus were short-lived. They became permanent several decades later. Winter, “Columbus.”

[41] Anderson, More than Petticoats, 41.

[42] Jenkins, “How the Kindergarten Found Its Way to America,” 49. Spellings for Agathe Schurz (1853–1915) and Berthe Meyer Ronge vary and their first names often appear as Agatha and Bertha.)

[43] Carl Schuz never mentioned the kindergarten in his published correspondence or autobiography. And in contrast to Frankenberg who advertised in the local newspaper, Schurz apparently did not. There are no existing copies of the Watertown Weltbürger from that time and the English language newspaper, The Democrat, make no reference to it. Eichhoff, “Kindergarten and its Progeny in American English,” 86-87. Schurz’s kindergarten was later made known outside the state with one of the earliest references published by Nina Vandewalker in 1902. She wrote the article, “The Kindergarten Movement in Wisconsin” for the Kindergarten Magazine. Nina C. Vandewalker, “The Kindergarten Movement in Wisconsin,” Kindergarten Magazine 14 (1902): 117-21. Vandewalker was convinced that Schurz founded the first kindergarten in the United States based on interviews and correspondence conducted with “Forty-Eighters,” German-American refugees who had participated in the failed German revolution of 1848-49. Based on her study and additional findings, she published The Kindergarten in American Education in 1908. Nina C. Vandewalker, The Kindergarten in American Education (New York: Macmillan Company, 1908).

[44] Anderson, More than Petticoats, 41; Swart, “Margarethe Schurz,” 33; Susan Fleming, “Margarethe Meyer Schurz,” Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, Jewish Women’s Archive, March 1, 2009 (accessed December 10, 2015).

[45] Anderson, More than Petticoats, 41.

[46] Richard S. Levy, Antisemitism in the Modern World: An Anthology of Texts (Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath and Company, 1991), 2–3, 19.

[47] Klaus L. Berghahn, Grenzen der Toleranz: Juden und Christen im Zeitalter der Aufklärung (Köln: Böhlau Verlag, 2001), 282.

[48] Swart, Schurz, 3-4.

[49] Despite being granted their civil rights in 1871, German Jews continued to experience discrimination and prejudice. For example, the word anti-Semite, and the abstraction “anti-Semitism” first appeared in Germany in 1879.

[50] Swart, Schurz, 5–6. Anderson, More than Petticoats, 42. For a brief description of the details of Goldschmidt’s life, see Emily Taitz, “Goldschmidt, Johanna Schwabe.” Encyclopaedia Judaica. Ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. 2nd ed. Vol. 7. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. 719. This encyclopedia can be found as an online database through GaleGroup. Also, for more information, see Benjamin Maria Baader, Gender, Judaism, and Bourgeois Culture in Germany, 1800–1870 (Indiana University Press, 2006), which includes fuller discussion of the Hamburg kindergarten movement and the role of members of Hamburg’s Jewish community in getting it off the ground.

[51] Encyclopedia of Early Childhood Education, ed. Leslie R. Williams and Doris Pronin Fromberg (New York: Garland Publishing, 1992), s.v. “Schurz, Margarethe Meyer,” 91.

[52] Jenkins, “Kindergartens,” 50; Blackwell, “Domesticating,” 110.

[53] Jenkins, “Kindergartens,” 55; Anderson, More than Petticoats, 42.

[54] Baylor, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, 34.

[55] Jenkins, “Kindergartens,” 50; Anderson, More than Petticoats, 42; Edinger, “Frau Karl Schurz.” Some sources indicate that the Ronges established an “Infant Garden” in Hampstaed, England in 1851. In 1855, Berthe Meyer Ronge and Johannes Ronge published A Practical Guide to the English Kindergarten (Children’s Garden) for the Use of Mothers, Governesses, and Infant Teachers: Being an Exposition of Froebel’s System of Infant Training. Berthe Ronge also organized kindergarten exhibits and demonstrations in London. Jenkins, “How the Kindergarten Found Its Way to America,” 50.

[56] Swart, “Margarethe Schurz,” 33. St. Marylebone is an Anglican Church. Margarethe Schurz is wearing a cross on the cover of the biography by Hannah Werwath Swart and in the photograph on the Wisconsin Historical Society website, suggesting she converted to Christianity. Carl Schurz believed there was no point in staying in London and waiting for the political climate to improve in the German states anytime soon. He, like many of the other German exiles, headed for America where the type of government and freedom they sought was already in place. Anderson, More than Petticoats, 41; Edinger, “Frau Karl Schurz.”

[57] Swart, “Margarethe Schurz,” 35.

[58] Quam and Jannke, Handi and Pussy, 4.

[59] A neighbor girl, Ella Flavin, helped Schurz care for Marianne and came by after school to teach the children English. The four girls were two pairs of sisters: Anna and Nannie Jüssen and Julia and Margaretta Miller. A boy named Franklin Blumenfeld, whose father was the editor of the local German newspaper, soon joined them. Edinger, “Frau Karl Schurz”; Quam and Jannke, Handi and Pussy, 5; “The Kindergarten: Where Children Grow,” 134.

[60] Marv Balousek, Famous Wisconsin Inventors & Entrepreneurs (Oregon, WI: Badger Books, 2003), 84.

[61] “Schurz, Margarethe Meyer,” in Encyclopedia of Early Childhood Education, 91.

[62] Swart, “Margarethe Schurz,” 39; First Kindergarten in the United States. In 1929, the Saturday Club Women of Watertown placed a memorial marker next to the small frame house recognizing it as the first kindergarten in America and honoring Margarethe Meyer Schurz. Boy Scouts and kindergarten children assisted with the dedication. Eichhoff, “Kindergartenand its Progeny in American English,” 82. Jenkins, “How the Kindergarten Found Its Way to America,” 48.

[63] Swart, Schurz, 42–43.

[64] Ibid., 66–68.

[65] Anderson, More than Petticoats, 37.

[66] Quoted in Baylor, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, 35; Anderson, More than Petticoats, 39, 40; Edigner, “Frau Karl Schurz.” Schurz also compared the method to that of Pestalozzi whose principles were better known in America, and maintained that Froebel’s educational methods were greater than his. Eichhoff, “Kindergartenand its Progeny in American English,” 86.

[67] Jenkins, “Kindergartens,” 54. Schurz sent her the preface, published in pamphlet form, but did not indicate it wasn’t the entire book. Eichhoff, “Kindergartenand its Progeny in American English,” 86. Froebel’s Die Menschenerziehung has been translated as The Education of Man or The Education of Mankind. However, the German words “Mensch” and “Menschen” are primarily translated as “human” (singular) and “humans” or “human beings” (plural). Peabody could speak almost a dozen languages and was interested in emerging European educational models. Anderson, More than Petticoats, 39. She wrote an introduction for the English translation, The Education of Man, which was translated by Josephine Jarvis and published by A. Lovell and Co. in 1885.

[68]Margarethe Schurz,” Wisconsin Historical Society (accessed January 25, 2016).

[69] Fleming, “Margarethe Meyer Schurz.” Blackwell, “Domesticating,” 113; Eichhoff, “Kindergartenand its Progeny in American English,” 85.

[70] Jenkins, “How the Kindergarten Found Its Way to America,” 60; Winter, “Columbus.” “Home of Play School.”

[71] It is estimated that Peabody trained over 3,000 women as kindergarten teachers. Blackwell, “Domesticating,” 112; Anderson, More than Petticoats, 40.

[72] Mary Tyler Peabody Mann (1806–1887) was married to educational reformer Horace Mann (1796–1859). Bertha von Marenholtz-Bülow (1810–1893), Froebel’s biographer, published The Reminiscences of Friedrich Froebel in 1877 and Mary Tyler Peabody Mann translated it from German into English. Peabody had visited Marenholtz-Bülow in Germany to observe Froebel’s kindergartens and the sisters brought her to the United States to lecture on the subject. Kohl, How Kindergarten Came to America, ix.

[73] Jenkins, “How the Kindergarten Found Its Way to America,” 55.

[74] Quoted in Jenkins, “How the Kindergarten Found Its Way to America,” 50. Barnard established the American Journal of Education in 1855 and mentioned kindergartens in his journal of July 1856. Baylor, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, 37. He later published Kindergarten and Child Culture Papers: Papers on Froebel’s Kindergarten, with Suggestions on Principles and Methods of Child Culture in Different Countries (1890).

[75] Similar to Froebel’s kindergartens, nineteenth-century kindergartens were meant for the children of the middle-class, although children of all classes were welcome. Kohl, How Kindergarten Came to America, xiv; “Froebel, Frederick,” in Encyclopedia of Early Childhood Education, 51.

[76] Quoted in Jenkins, “How the Kindergarten Found Its Way to America,” 61.

[77] By 1907, when the International Kindergarten Union held its fourteenth annual convention in New York City, thousands of members from across the United States and Canada attended. They reported 10,585 members and 11 new branches. Jane A. Stewart, “The Kindergartners in New York,” The Journal of Education 65, no. 19 (1907): 521, 529–530. In 1946, The International Kindergarten Union became the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) and is now a nonprofit global association.

[78] Lucy Wheelock, “Kindergarten Pilgrimage to the Haunts of Froebel,” The Journal of Education 72, no. 14 (1910): 372–373.

[79] Irma Dresdner, “German Welcome,” The Journal of Education, 73, no. 24 (1911): 680.

[80] The itinerary was planned and a booklet was printed with the title page reading, “The Froebel Pilgrimage, 1911, Bureau of University Travel, Boston.” Dresdner noted that a large company of American teachers interested in their educational work was going to visit for 60 to 80 days to see places related to Froebel and the “Froebel land.” From a German perspective, she shed additional insight as to this transatlantic relationship. For example, she wrote that the group would visit the Froebel Institute in Dresden which was founded by Baroness Bertha von Marenholtz-Bülow (1810–1893) and that the latter is honored in America for extending the kindergarten idea “beyond the seas” due to her “unwearied propaganda.” Baroness von Marenholtz-Bülow met Froebel in Liebenstein where he had established a kindergarten in 1849. She was vacationing there at the time but took to his theories immediately. By early 1850, she obtained a building for his training school. She also brought his pedagogy to the attention of nobility and influential educators and became his biographer and greatest proponent. She championed the kindergarten system in England, France, Belgium, Italy, Holland, and Switzerland and was instrumental in lifting the ban against kindergartens in 1861. Baylor, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, 26, 29.

[81] Froebel encouraged Frankenberg to go to the United States in 1836 to establish a kindergarten and wrote, “the United States is the country best fitted by virtue of its spirit of freedom, true Christianity and pure family life, to receive and profit by (his) educational message. Quoted in Winter, “Columbus.” “Home of Play School.” Baylor, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, 29–30.

[82] Lucy Wheelock, “The Froebel Pilgrimage of 1911,” The Journal of Education, 74, no. 18 (1911): 482–484.

[83] Blackwell, “Domesticating, “114. Froebel published Mutter und Koselieder in 1839. Baylor, Peabody, 36.

[84] Anne Galicich, The German Americans: The Peoples of North America (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1989), 102–103.

[85] Günther, “Interdependenzen”.

[86]Obituary of Dr. Adolph Douai (January 28,1888),”Workmen’s Advocate 4.4 (January 28, 1888): 1-2. (accessed January 18, 2016).

Douai was born in Altenburg, Thuringia, taught there, participated in the German revolution of 1848–1849, and immigrated to the United States in 1852. He arrived in Texas and founded a school in New Braunfels and then served as editor of the San Antonio Zeitung. By 1856, however, he had become an abolitionist agitator and was forced to leave Texas, arriving in Boston. Marilyn M. Sibley, “Douai, Carl Daniel Adolph,” Handbook of Texas Online, June 12, 2010 (accessed January 18, 2016).

He helped publicize Froebel’s theories and practices and in 1871 published The Kindergarten: A Manual for the Introduction of Fröbel’s System of Primary Education (New York: E. Steiger.) It was subsequently translated into Japanese, which contributed to the dissemination of Froebel’s teachings in Japan. Günther, “Interdependenzen.”

[87] Douai also served as the editor of the New York Democrat and soon moved to New York. He continued to promote the kindergarten movement and wrote educational textbooks. He served as editor of a labor journal, the New York Arbeiter-Union from 1868 until 1870 and from 1878 until his death in 1888 worked as the editor of the Neu Yorker Volkszeitung. Sibley, “Douai, Carl Daniel Adolph.”

[88] E. Steiger to Frau Senator Schurz, 18 February 1871. Carl Schurz Personal Library, Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison. (The letter and book are archived in Carl Schurz ‘s personal library.) The fact that Carl Schurz saved his wife’s book and the accompanying letter suggests that even though he did not publically acknowledge her kindergarten in his writings, that didn’t mean it was insignificant to him.

[89] The book is inscribed, “Mrs. Schurz with respects of E. Steiger.”

[90] Eichhoff, “Kindergarten and its Progeny in American English,” 85.

[91] Galicich, The German Americans, 103. “The Kindergarten: Where Children Grow,” 135.

[92] Carol Ferring Shepley, “Women in History: Susan Blow, Founder of U.S. Kindergartens,” Missouri History Museum, March 8, 2011 (accessed January 27, 2016).

[93] “Maria Kraus-Boelte: German American Educator,” Encyclopedia Britannica, (accessed December 2, 2015). In a United States Educational Report from 1873, the following information was made available: 42 kindergartens with 1,252 pupils. In 1881, there were 273 kindergartens with more than 14,000 children and more than 600 teachers engaged in San Francisco, Wilmington, Belleville, Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Hoboken, Newark, and New York. Quoted in Günther, “Interdependenzen.” Herrmann Schuricht, Geschichte der deutschen Schulbestrebungen in Amerika (Leipzig: Verlag Friedrich Fleischer, 1884), 97. Jürgen Eichhoff provides the following statistics in that the number of kindergartens, public or private, rose from 42 in 1873 to 348 by 1882. Eichhoff, “Kindergarten and its Progeny in American English,” 87. It is difficult to ascertain an exact total given that the statistics seem to vary. This may be a result of ineffective data-gathering practices at the time, the improvised nature of many kindergartens, or some combination thereof.

[94] Quoted in Eichhoff, “Kindergarten and its Progeny in American English,” 87.

[95] Schurz had given birth to five children in total, three daughters and two sons. The third daughter, Emma Savannah Schurz (1865-1868) died as an enfant. Swart, Schurz, 68-69.

[96] Swart, Schurz, 65-66. “America’s First Kindergarten: 150 Years,” Watertown Historical Society (accessed January 11, 2016).

[97] In 1856, the Schurz home, known as “Carl’s Hill” or “Karlshügel,” was located at 749 N. Church Street in Watertown. It burned to the ground in December 1915. “America’s First Kindergarten.” “The Kindergarten: The Garden Where Children Grow,” 134. First Kindergarten in the United States, 9. The kindergarten building was originally located in downtown Watertown. At one time, two sisters with the surname Heimsehr owned and used the small building as a grocery store. Jenkins, “How the Kindergarten Found Its Way to America,” 49. Over the years, the building became a cigar factory, fish store and then a religious bookstore. It was moved to its current location in 1956. Modifications were made to the front when windows and a door were added. There is a commemorative plaque recognizing Margarethe Meyer Schurz on Jones Street by City Hall. The Center sells publications related to Schurz and Froebel gift boxes, among other items. In recent years, a woman, who happened to be a teacher, bought a trunk that had an address label on it for Margarethe Meyer. She bought the trunk at a rummage sale in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. She recognized the name and donated it to the society. Schurz had brought the trunk from Europe and it contained her teaching materials. Telephone conversation on September 20, 2015 with Linda Werth, Manager of the Tourist Center at the Watertown Historical Society.

[98] Anderson, More than Petticoats, 39; Eichhoff, “Kindergarten and its Progeny in American English,” 82; Günther, “Interdependenzen.”

[99] In her first article on the topic, published in November 1862 in the Atlantic Monthly, Elizabeth Peabody translated Kindergartenas “a garden of children.” The title of her article was “Kindergarten – What Is It?” Eichhoff, “Kindergarten and its Progeny in American English,” 87-88.

[100] Kohl, How Kindergarten Came to America, xii; Froebel’s Gifts (Watertown, WI: Watertown Historical Society, 1988), 1.

[101] Susan Blow presented at the same centennial exhibition and won an award for excellence in kindergarten work within a public school system. Shepley, “Women in History: Susan Blow.”

[102] Froebel Documentary Film 2015, Froebel USA, (accessed December 15, 2015).

[103] “German Propaganda in Schools,” editorial, and “Kindergartens,” editorial, both in The Journal of Education, March 14, 1918, 295–296.

[104] Blackwell, “Domesticating,” 112.

[105] Quoted in Eichhoff, “Kindergarten and its Progeny in American English,” 89.

[106] “Start Empathy,” (accessed December 10, 2015).


Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title German Social Entrepreneurs and the First Kindergartens in Nineteenth Century America
  • Author
  • Website Name Immigrant Entrepreneurship
  • URL
  • Access Date April 16, 2024
  • Publisher German Historical Institute
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 22, 2018