Early Childhood Education

National Committee on Nursery Schools (1925-1931)


Teachers College Professor Patty Smith Hill organized the National Committee on Nursery Schools out of her conviction that nursery schools needed to remain professionally led and grounded in research. Nursery schools grew in number from 3 to 262 between 1920 and 1930. Noting this increase, Hill organized three meetings in 1925. In May, she invited twenty-five individuals to the first meeting to discuss whether to form a new association for nursery schools. Attendees included Abigail Eliot, Edna Noble White, Helen Thompson Woolley, and Grace Caldwell. At this gathering, Hill appointed Lois Meek (Stolz) chair of the committee for subsequent meetings. At a later meeting, members decided to hold a public National Committee on Nursery Schools Conference in Washington, DC, in February 1926. The purpose of nursery schools and their role within public education were discussed at the conference as well as ways in which nursery schools could contribute to parent education, health, and family welfare.

A second conference was held in New York City on April 22-23, 1927, and had at least 295 in attendance from multidisciplinary backgrounds (Hewes, 2001, p. 36). A third conference convened in Chicago in 1929 where members decided to press forward to form the National Association for Nursery Education (NANE now NAEYC). Lois Meek (Stolz) supported the name, claiming “we did not know whether there would always be nursery schools, but we knew there would always be education for preschool children” (Stolz, 1979). Utilizing her office at the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Lois Meek (Stolz) continued as Committee Chair of the National Committee for Nursery Education until 1931. Rose Alschuler was secretary-treasurer of the Committee and donated $500 to maintain Committee operations (Beatty, 1995, p. 178). The Committee published “Minimum Essentials for Nursery Education” in 1929 and later developed a constitution and bylaws for NANE.

Further Readings: Beatty, Barbara (1995). Preschool education in America: The culture of young children from the colonial era to the present. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press; Hewes, Dorothy (2001). NAEYC’s First Half Century: 1926-1976. In NAEYC at 75, 1926-2001: Reflections on the past, challenges for the Future. Washington, DC: NAEYC, pp. 35-52; Lascarides, V. Celia and Blythe Hinitz (2000). History of early childhood education. New York: Falmer Press; Stolz, Lois Hayden Meek Papers (1979). An American Child Development Pioneer: Lois Hayden Meek Stolz, interview conducted by Ruby Takanishi, Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, History of Medicine Division, pp. 72-73.

Charlotte Anderson