Early Childhood Education

Hailmann, Eudora Lucas (1835-1904)

 

Eudora Hailmann (nee Lucas) was born into a politically liberal family that valued the education of girls. This oriented her toward improving the status of women through organizations, by professional training for kindergarten teachers, and in parent education programs. Her studies in music and art, at Miss Guthrie’s School in Louisville, Kentucky, prepared her for development of methods, materials and activities used for decades in preschool and primary classes.

In 1856, Eudora married William Hailmann, a Swiss immigrant who was teaching at the Girls High School in Louisville. They had a daughter and three sons. When William was asked to develop a German-American Academy in 1865, he included the first kindergarten classroom built in the United States. As a volunteer mother, working with its Froebelian teacher from Germany, Eudora became so interested in the system that she studied it in Europe in 1866 and 1871. The Hailmann marriage then became a dual-career partnership as they promoted the humanist philosophy of Friedrich Froebel. Willliam’s focus was upon the elementary grades and Eudora’s upon kindergarten children under the age of 7, their mothers, and their teachers.

During a period in which married women were supposed to devote themselves to maintaining the household, Eudora had unique freedom to travel and to carry out professional activities. The family moved to Milwaukee in 1873 and to Detroit in 1880 when William administered public schools and Eudora established private kindergartens with training programs. After William became Superintendent of Schools in LaPorte in 1883, they developed a nationally acclaimed curriculum from kindergarten through all grades to teacher training. Eudora also helped establish two of the first normal schools in the nation, in Oshkosh and Winona. Her speeches at the summer Chautauqua circuit and other institutes were often reprinted as bulletins for wider distribution. From 1884 until the Columbian Exposition of 1893, she coordinated displays of creative work done by kindergarten children and held demonstration classes for educational conferences and world’s fairs. Between 1876 and 1893, the Hailmanns published the bimonthly New Education as the major communication medium for the nation’s Froebelian kindergartens. They established the Froebel Institute, with its first national conference in 1882. It became the Kindergarten Department of the National Educational Association (NEA) in 1884. As president of that department in 1888, Eudora was the first woman to sit on the NEA governing board. She spoke on kindergarten topics at each year’s convention from 1885 until 1892.

From her studies in Europe, Eudora recognized that Froebel had developed his “gifts and occupations” with the expectation that they would be expanded by his followers. She developed wooden beads, based upon the cube, ball, and cylinder of his Second Gift, and popularized the sandbox, modeling clay, dollhouses, and small tables for group projects. With daughter Elizabeth, she wrote Songs, Games, and Rhymes in 1887.

President Cleveland, a Democrat, appointed William as Superintendent of Indian Schools in 1894. Because the department was severely underfunded, his entire family became unpaid staff. Eudora developed three normal schools and forty reservation kindergartens with training programs for aides and parents. William’s position was terminated in 1897, after a Republican became president. Shortly afterward, Eudora had “an attack of nervous prostration” that caused her to be a housebound invalid until her death in 1905. The heritage she left includes major universities that evolved from her kindergarten training schools. Her egalitarian marriage demonstrated that wives can have successful careers. Through promoting self-directed education of young children and their teachers, Eudora Hailmann helped establish the early care and education of today.

Further Readings: Archival collection of W. N. Hailmann. Department of Special Collections, University of California, Los Angeles; Hewes, Dorothy W. (2001). W. N. Hailmann: Defender of Froebel. Grand Rapids, MI: Froebel Foundation; International Kindergarten Union. (1924). Pioneers in the kindergarten. New York: Century; Vandewalker, Nina C. (1908). The kindergarten in America. New York: Macmillan.

Dorothy W. Hewes