|Hearst Grammar School, San Francisco, 1892|
California Historical Society
“Think of it; nearly twelve years ago there was not a free kindergarten this side of the Rocky Mountains,” the September 6, 1890 San Francisco News Letter exuberantly reported. “To-day there are fifty-three in San Francisco, two-thirds of which are under the auspices of the Golden Gate Kindergarten Association. . . . Over seven thousand children have passed through the course!”Many of us remember our first day of kindergarten, but how many know about the woman who helped establish American kindergartens or her legacy today in our state’s education?
In her day, Phoebe Apperson Hearst was one of the nation’s wealthiest women. The widow of Senator George Hearst and mother of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, Hearst directed much of the family fortune to the social uplift, care, and education of women and children.
As benefactress of educational institutions and individuals, Hearst founded the first free kindergartens in the Unites States, financed a school for the training of kindergarten teachers, established the Golden Gate Kindergarten Association and the National Congress of Mothers (a forerunner of the National Council of Parents and Teachers, known today as the PTA), and endowed scholarships for women students at the University of California at Berkeley, where—as the first woman Regent of the University of California from 1897 until her death in 1919—she played an incalculable role in the university’s development.
In this photo essay, we honor this dedicated, deeply thoughtful, caring, and forward-thinking woman who bettered society in the most fundamental of ways.