Parent Teacher Association
Parent Teacher Association
On February 17, 1897, the National Congress of Mothers was formed, which would later become the Parent Teacher Association.
The organization was the brainchild of Alice McLellan Birney and Phoebe Apperson Hearst. Both mothers, Birney and Hearst were deeply concerned about the welfare of children and believed in the importance of education in enriching their lives.
In 1895, Birney first proposed her idea for an organization to work on behalf of children. Over the next two years, she gained support in her community. Hearst was the wife of wealthy businessman George Hearst (and mother of William Randolph Hearst). Hearst opened the first free kindergartens in San Francisco before moving to Washington, DC, where she met Birney. Hearst convinced Birney that she should follow through with her organization and helped arrange the first meeting.
That meeting was held on February 17, 1897, in Washington, DC. They had expected about 200 people to attend, but a total of 2,000 people turned out. While most of the people in attendance were mothers, there were also fathers, teachers, laborers, and legislators. During that meeting, Birney was made the president of the National Congress of Mothers and Hearst was made the vice president. Mrs. Letitia Stevenson (wife of Vice President Adlai Stevenson) was also made a vice president. Afterward, First Lady Frances Cleveland hosted a reception at the White House.
The Congress met the following year and promoted cooperation between parents and teachers. They also pushed for a national health bureau. In the coming years, they would also call on more fathers to join the organization and speak out for juvenile justice, child labor laws, and providing federal aid to schools. They also began providing hot lunches to children in schools and launched a campaign on child hygiene to reduce children’s mortality rates. During the 1920s, the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers was founded to support children in segregated states (they joined with the PTA in the 1970s).
In 1924, the organization adopted a new name, the National Congress of Parents and Teachers. It was also during this time that the PTA launched a crusade against illiteracy. In the 1930s, the PTA began a special nutrition project and provided emergency aid to prevent children from suffering during the Depression. They also began studying school bus safety.
In the 1940s, the PTA launched its nationwide school lunch program. And in the 1950s, they held a conference on narcotics and drug addiction in youth. The PTA also helped field-test and gain support for the Salk Polio Vaccine. In the 1960s, the PTA spoke out about the dangers of smoking and pushed for toy safety legislation. They also created a nationwide cultural arts program and brought more attention to home-school relations in low-income areas.
In the 1970s, the PTA spoke out about alcohol abuse and violence on television and encouraged parents to take part in decision-making in schools. In the 1980s, the PTA pushed for safety belt legislation and created a drug and alcohol prevention program. During the 1990s, they launched a campaign to protect children from violence and worked with other national groups to encourage parental involvement in early education.
Today, the PTA operates in every state as well as the District of Columbia, US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, with about 23,000 local organizations.
Click here to learn more from the PTA website.
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