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The Souvenir of Western Women/Kindergarten in the Northwest

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Kindergarten in the Northwest

IN 1882 Mrs. Kate Douglas Wiggin came to Portland by invitation from the Christian Union, of the Unitarian Church, and gave several lectures on the subject of kindergarten. On returning to her home in San Francisco she represented Portland to her co-workers as an important field for kindergarten work. Her enthusiasm and the influence of prominent women here induced Mrs. Caroline Dunlap to come north and adopt Portland as her home and mission. The work began here in a private kindergarten, but Mrs. Dunlap's views of the importance of kindergarten training were far too broad to allow her to be satisfied with any restricted effort. The cause must, however, gain its own standing, and this one kindergarten became the observation point for all interested in the subject.

In 1883 a training class was founded in conjunction with Mrs. Wiggin's class in San Francisco, and several ladies entered into study of the system.

In 1884 a prospectus was circulated for forming a free kindergarten association. In response to this the organization was soon established, and on November 10, 1884, the first free kindergarten was opened in an unused engine house on Glisan street. There were fifteen children in attendance the first day, but in a few months over sixty children were enrolled and three teachers employed.

In September, 1885, the second free kindergarten was opened in the Unitarian Chapel on Porter street. South Portland. During the year its enrollment reached 91.

In January, 1886, through the generosity of half a dozen ladies and gentlemen, who each gave $60 per annum, Kindergarten No. 3 was opened in the Watson's Addition school house on Seventeenth and Upshur streets, and soon had an enrollment of fifty children.

In September, 1890, the fourth kindergarten was opened on Seventh and Davis streets. This was furnished by a society of little girls and for them was named the King's Daughters' Kindergarten. The enrollment here was 84 at the close of the first year.

As a philanthropic work, the kindergartens had been eminently successful, but so important a factor in education should be a part of the public school system, and in order to bring this about the following bill was brought before the legislature and became a law in January, 1887:

"The directors of any school district in the state, which shall contain 500 inhabitants or more, may, when authorized thereto by the qualified electors of such district, provide for the establishment and maintenance therein, as part of the common school system, schools commonly known as kindergartens."

The kindergarten with some state aid and by the efforts of friends went steadily forward building a far-reaching and beneficent influence. In 1897 Mrs. Dunlap retired from the position of superintendent. At this time the kindergarten board of directors expected to secure through the legislature a large appropriation. The bill was lost, and even the small assistance formerly given was withheld. An appeal was then made to the taxpayers, and the sum of $5,000 was voted for the purpose of putting the kindergartens into the public schools. Unfortunately, no notice had been given of such intention; the proceeding was therefore illegal. The board of education declined to handle the money, and it was decided by the court that the board of managers of the free kindergartens might devote it to the free kindergartens. One year exhausted the fund, and its vanishing shade rang the death knell of that happy, useful and beloved child of Portland—the free kindergarten.