Margarethe Schurze

Did you know that the first kindergarten in the United States was in Watertown, Wisconsin?

Margarethe Meyer Schurze was born in Hamburg, Germany. She immigrated to the United States when she was only 19 years old. She and her husband Carl first settled on the east coast. In 1855 they moved to Watertown, Wisconsin. In 1856, Margarethe started the very first kindergarten in the United States. Where did she get idea? Margarethe had studied the idea of kindergarten in Germany.

Kindergarten is a German word meaning "a garden where children grow." It’s a special place for beginning students. Schooling in the 1800s was very strict and formal. Education meant memorizing things, lots of things. If you had a good memory, you were a good student. Kindergarten was very different.

Children in kindergarten learn by playing games and singing songs. They work together in groups. Students have fun while they learn new skills. Children in kindergarten still learn this way today.
In 1859 Margarethe met Elizabeth Peabody. Elizabeth was a well-known writer and teacher from Salem, Massachusetts. Margarethe described her kindergarten to Ms. Peabody. She loved the idea! Elizabeth helped start kindergartens all over the United States.

Margarethe was proud of her school. She worked hard to make education better. But she didn’t stay in Wisconsin for long. She was in poor health and very sad after her daughter died in 1867. She decided to return to Germany. Margarethe’s first kindergarten class had only five students. Now children all over the United States attend the “garden where children grow.”