Born this day in 1841: Alice Putnam (1841–1919), kindergarten pioneer who brought kindergarten to Chicago public schools
Alice Putnam was born Alice Whiting in Chicago. She was educated at home by her mother and at Dearborn Seminary. In 1868 she married Joseph Putnam, and the couple had four children.
Putnam’s desire to educate her young children drew her to the kindergarten movement. In 1874 she formed a parents group at her home, and together with about a dozen women and men studied the theories and techniques of German educator Friedrich Froebel. She then completed formal training and began running a kindergarten class from her home.
Her parents group evolved into the Chicago Froebel Association in 1880. By that time, interest in kindergarten had been growing. Between 1880 and 1910, Putnam supervised a kindergarten training school sponsored by the association. At the invitation of Jane Addams, some of this training was offered at Hull House. In addition to teaching kindergarten classes and training kindergarten teachers, she wrote articles and lectured about incorporating education into the lives of young children.
Putnam was instrumental in the establishment of public kindergartens in Chicago. In 1886 the Froebel Association talked the Chicago school board into allowing it to run 10 private kindergartens in public school settings. The experiment was a success, and the school board needed no further convincing to include kindergarten as part of the public school program at both the city and county level.
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