I was wondering where the school was and who decided to start a Kindergarten in St. Louis; after all, that was a German educational philosophy right? The first Kindergarten in America was actually in Waterman, Wisconsin. But the first publicly financed Kindergarten was founded by Susan Elizabeth Blow in 1873.
The eldest of six children, Susan Blow was the daughter of Henry Taylor Blow and Minerva Grimsley. Henry owned various lead-mining operations, was president of the Iron Mountain Railroad, was a state senator, and was a minister to Brazil and Venezuela. Minerva was the daughter of a prominent manufacturer and local politician. The Blow children grew up in a deeply religious family surrounded by comfort, wealth, and high German culture. Her grandfather was Captain Peter Blow, the owner of the slaveDred Scott, who later challenged the slavery issue in court.
Due to her family's social status, Blow received her education from her parents, various governesses, private tutors, and schools. At age eight, she was enrolled at the William McCauley School in New Orleans, Louisiana; she attended classes there for the next two years. At age sixteen Blow and her sister Nellie enrolled in the New York school of Henrietta Haines but were forced to return home due to the outbreak of the Civil War. During this time Blow tutored her younger brothers and sister and taught Sunday school at Carondelet Presbyterian Church.
At age twenty, Blow met and fell in love with a soldier named Colonel William Coyle, but her parents found him to be unsuitable. When Coyle was discharged for medical reasons, her father took her to Washington D.C. and introduced her to another military man who was more to his liking. However, Blow chose not to marry.
President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Henry Blow minister to Brazil in 1869, and Susan went with him as his secretary. During the next fifteen months, she quickly learned Portuguese. Her bilingual ability helped to ease trade communications between Brazil and the United States.
In 1870, along with her mother and siblings, Blow went abroad to Europe. She first began studying the philosophies of Hegel and the American Transcendentalists. However, while abroad she came across the kindergarten teaching methods of German idealist and philosopher Friedrich Fröbel. Fröbel believed in "learning-through-play" and cognitive development.
Susan Elizabeth Blow was an important leader in education from Missouri. She founded the first public kindergarten in St. Louis and ran it for eleven years without any pay. Blow worked hard to give young children a good start in their education. “If we can make children love intellectual effort,” she once wrote, “we shall prolong habits of study beyond school years.” (source)That quote warms my heart.
St. Louis is a fascinating place with an amazing history. Our citizens have made monumental contributions to our culture and society. We need more pioneers with this kind of vision. I like living amongst this kind of history.