Select Page

The International Kindergarten Union

May 1893 — The Congress of Women, Woman’s Building, World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago IL


The International Kindergarten Union is now one year old. It seems fitting that a statement be made of its aims and purposes, its growth, and its prospects for the future.

It was organized at Saratoga, in 1892, in the interests of concerted action among the friends of the kindergarten cause. As a beginning, four distinct aims were stated:

To gather and disseminate knowledge of the kindergarten movement throughout the world.

To bring into active coöperation all kindergarten interests.

To promote the establishment of kindergartens.

To elevate the kindergartner’s standard of professional training.

As stated in the preliminary circular:

The principles underlying the kindergarten system are the groundwork of modern primary education. An intelligent interpretation of the philosophy and method is being presented by many independent workers in various parts of the world; something like a complete system of primary education is being slowly evolved from the repeated experiments of these investigators. Much of value to the world is being lost from the lack of coördinate effort and some common channel of communication.

The International Kindergarten Union was formed to meet this need. It seeks to unite in one stream the various kindergarten activities already existing. Its function is to supplement, not to compete with, to coördinate, not to supplant, the agencies which are already at work. It combines the advantages of central council and suggestion with local independence and control. Its mission is to collect, collate, and disseminate the valuable knowledge already attained, and to inspire to greater and more intelligent efforts in the future. It falls naturally into the spirit and method of the times, which is no longer that of isolated effort, but of concentrated, harmonious action.

In most of the States the kindergartens are outside of the public school system, and in the hands of private societies. It is obvious that an International Kindergarten Union can deal only with large units. It is hoped that all of the kindergarten societies in each State, whether public or private, will unite to form one State organization for representation in the International Kindergarten Union. The great advance which has been made in the growth of kindergartens in the recent past makes it hopeful that the time is near when there will be no State without such an organization.

The International Kindergarten Union is pledged to promote such organizations, and to the establishment of kindergartens. It invites coöperation from public and private schools, churches, and benevolent societies of every kind and grade, which have for their object the educational interests of little children.

The establishment of a high standard of training for the office of kindergartner has long been felt to be a necessity by those most intimately connected with the work. It is of first importance that some standard be reached that shall direct the future action of training schools in the preparation of teachers. The time is past when “anybody can teach little children;” we are no longer in the experimental stage. No position calls for more native ability and more thorough training. The kindergartner must take her place with other trained professional teachers, if she can hope to hold her place in the great army of educational progress; she must be able to see that principles are more than method, spirit more than form, and organic relations to other departments of education of vital importance to success in her own.

It will be the work of the International Kindergarten Union to prepare an outline of study, to advise its adoption, and to give aid and counsel whenever they are sought. The executive committee includes the leading kindergartners of this country and of Europe. Their experience and knowledge give ample security that wise counsel will be given in all questions of importance to the cause.

The immediate aim of the International Kindergarten Union for the coming year will be to prepare a fitting representation of kindergarten progress at the Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893. This time will furnish an occasion for an interchange of views and an organization of forces for future growth unequaled in the history of the world. An international congress is planned for this time, in which will be discussed questions of vital importance to the cause by the most eminent kindergartners of the world. Foreign correspondence is now being held to bring together products of the system in countries much older than our own. It is hoped that not only finished products may be displayed, in well-graded sequence, but that practical illustrations of method may be given with the little children present.

A provisional constitution was adopted, the terms of which were very simple and very elastic.

Each local center retains complete autonomy, and continues the activities which were begun before joining the general union.

So much for what was hoped to be done. Allow me to make a brief review of what has been done. It was early discovered that certain important changes must be made in membership and in dues. At a meeting of the executive board, held in Chicago in December, it was decided to recognize only cities as members in the International Kindergarten Union, with the exception of the original charter members, and that dues for membership should be fixed as follows:

Each city branch shall pay into the general treasury twenty-five cents for each of its members.

Sixteen of the leading cities in the United States have joined the union, and two others are considering the matter. This means that all the kindergarten societies in each city have united to form a membership in the International Kindergarten Union. The cities are the following: Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Providence, Wilmington, Albany, Buffalo, Chicago, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Toledo, Cleveland, St. Louis, Des Moines, San Francisco, Smyrna (Turkey). These are called city branches of the International Kindergarten Union. Indications are given that foreign countries will also join the union. Most of them have responded promptly to the invitation to give reports of kindergarten progress in their countries, and have expressed hearty sympathy with the movement.

We are asked to answer the question, What is the advantage of an International Kindergarten Union? Or to put it in the words which I overheard from one of the members of our branch, “What am I going to get for my dollar?” Let me attempt to sketch briefly what I think one will get for her dollar; but first, let me say, the same arguments which can be urged for organization for any purpose can be urged with equal force for organized effort among kindergartners. The great word of the day is organization, and the reason for this is because the world has discovered that more can be done through combined action than through isolated effort; moreover, it is beginning to discover that more can be done through coördination than through subordination.

But in answer to the question of my timid, short-sighted little friend: First, then, it is a saving in the three primal values, energy, time, and money, which represents the first two, by frequent and complete circulation of the work of each branch of the union; each gains from the experience of all. Each center is a new field of experiment and discovery; that which is of value can be published for a thousand almost as easily as for one. Each valuable experience in one branch becomes an inspiration and incentive to renewed efforts in another; an enthusiasm is created which carries the whole body much farther than isolated action ever can. There is strength in numbers. The moral sentiment of a multitude is infinitely more compelling than the opinions of one.

Again, it meets a need in woman’s education which is paramount to-day; which is a training in organization, and power to act together by meeting for united action in the smaller centers for immediate ends; each will learn to coöperate with her peers and be led gradually by the most potent of all methods — experience — to the broader conception of the larger well-being, and finally, let us hope, to the highest conception of all the universal good. By the very force of woman’s life her vision is limited to the near necessities which press so heavily upon her, but the day is at hand when from her isolated position in the family and the school she will be called to take also the view which links her with others in working for the general good. What better way for a kindergartner to learn this all-important lesson than to begin where she is, with the vital interests which she has most at heart, and organize to secure their success? This organized effort also may bring her in touch with the choicest literature of her profession. It is one of the chief aims of the International Kindergarten Union to select out of the whole field of literature that which will bear most directly upon her profession, and mark out courses of reading for general culture. It is at this point that the selective intelligence of the whole counts for the most for the individual. No one has time to read even a tithe of the mass of literature which is put forth upon the subject. We want to make a journal of journals, which will collect and disseminate the products of the best thinking of the world in the direction of the child’s education, and make it possible for every mother, kindergartner, and teacher to have this journal for one dollar.

Each also will have the published proceedings of all general meetings, the papers and discussions of live educational topics by the leaders in this department of thought, and so keep in touch with the most recent thought and latest discoveries. Each will have the motive and opportunity to contribute to the general fund her latest and best thought, and so it becomes a training in writing and literary skill, and each may feel that she is contributing her mite toward making a profession of education possible.

By united action the city branches of the International Kindergarten Union may become real estate owners; they can build an educational temple which shall be forever sacred to the cause of little children, where each society can meet for social and professional purposes upon common ground for united action. They can collect in this temple a library of professional literature for the general use of all. They may have courses of study that will meet the needs of all, and command the finest lecture talent in the field. All this has been done by smaller agencies, and for lesser ends than ours, and can be done again.



Source: The World’s Congress of Representative Women, Vol. 2, Ed. May Eliza Wright Sewall, (Chicago: Rand and McNally, 1894), pp. 1-90.