Bio Sketch: Sarah Howard Peirce (1853-1930), founded first kindergarten in Dayton, Ohio

Sarah Howard Peirce was born April 28, 1853, in Dayton, Ohio, the daughter of Jeremiah H. Peirce (1818-1889) and Elizabeth H. Forrer (1827-1874).[1] Sarah was apparently named after her maternal grandmother, whose maiden name was Sarah Howard.

Sarah graduated in 1872 from Central High School in Dayton.[2]

Sarah Howard Peirce, undated

Sarah Howard Peirce, undated (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 18, Folder 11)

In the summer of 1876, Sarah wrote to Elizabeth Peabody regarding kindergarten teacher training. Peabody, who had founded America’s first English-speaking kindergarten in Boston in 1860, suggested that Sarah “go to Mrs. Ogden of Worthington, Ohio.”[3]

John Ogden operated a teacher training school in Worthington, Ohio, known as the “Ohio Central Normal and Kindergarten Training School.” John’s wife Gussie (Brewster) Ogden trained the kindergarten teachers. Mrs. Ogden herself had traveled to Boston in 1872 for training as a kindergarten teacher, and upon her return, she opened the first kindergarten in Ohio.[4] Sarah studied kindergarten teaching under Mrs. Ogden in the late summer and fall of 1876.[5]

Sarah opened the first kindergarten in Dayton in 1876. The school was located on the west side of Wilkinson Street between First and Water (Monument) streets. Sarah operated this school from late 1876 through 1877.[6]

In January 1878, Sarah moved to Lafayette, Indiana, to teach school there. Sarah taught the younger children, while a Mrs. Wood taught the older children. While in Lafayette, Sarah boarded initially with the family of one Dr. Smith and later at the Stockton House.[7]

By the early part of 1879, Sarah had begun inquiring about teaching positions back in Dayton. She asked her father to speak to his acquaintances on the School Board on her behalf; she also wrote to some school board members, such as A. D. Wilt, herself.[8]

Wilt encouraged Sarah to apply for a teaching position in the city schools on account of her “considerable experience.” However, he cautioned her that she might “meet the objection that you are not a graduate” [of the city’s normal, or teacher training, school] “and that graduates are granted the first opportunity, other things being equal.”[9]

Sarah did return to Dayton in 1880 and taught school for many years. For the most part is unclear where, but in 1882 she taught at Cooper Academy.[10]

Sarah Howard Peirce, undated

Sarah Howard Peirce, undated (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 18, Folder 11)

By 1889, Sarah was operating a kindergarten at 356 W. First Street. Beginning in 1892, Sarah was director of the Dayton Kindergarten and Primary School at 316 W. Monument Avenue. Soon after, the school moved to 310 W. Second Street. These kindergartens were all private schools; kindergarten was not added to the Dayton public school curriculum until the late 1890s. A year’s tuition at the Dayton Kindergarten and Primary School cost $40 in 1892.[11]

Sarah Howard Peirce, undated

Sarah Howard Peirce, undated (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 18, Folder 11)

Sarah continued teaching until at least 1915, which is the last city directory listing her occupation; she was 62 at that time.[12]

In addition to being a kindergarten teacher herself for many years, Sarah taught many women to be kindergarten teachers. She was also a founding member of Dayton’s Playgrounds Association, and she participated in the Montgomery County Horticultural Society and the Dayton Garden Club.[13]

Sarah was one of the founding members of the First Unitarian Church of Dayton, along with her sister Elizabeth Peirce and her Aunt Mary Peirce. Sarah was among those who signed the church’s Articles of Incorporation on May 21, 1910.[14]

For many years, Sarah lived at Five Oaks with her Aunt Mary (Forrer) Peirce and her sister Elizabeth Forrer Peirce.

Sarah Howard Peirce died April 9, 1930, in Athens, Greece, while visiting Europe with her sister Elizabeth and her niece Elizabeth (Parrott) Ellis. Sarah was 76 years old. She was buried in an English churchyard.[15]

*****

This biographical sketch was originally written by Lisa P. Rickey in April 2012 for the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018) finding aid at the Dayton Metro Library, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, Ohio, 45402; phone (937) 496-8654.

Additional information about the sketch’s subject can be found in that collection. For more information about the manuscript collection’s contents, please see the original PDF finding aid available in the Local History Room of the Dayton Metro Library, the OhioLINK EAD Repository entry, or the WorldCat record.

Please contact the Dayton Metro Library or this blog’s author for more information about how to access the original finding aid or the manuscript collection.


[1] Frank Bruen, Christian Forrer, the Clockmaker, and his Descendants (Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1939), 122.

[2] Brief History of the Alumni of Central High School, Dayton, Ohio (Dayton, OH: Alumni Association of Central High School, 1887), vol. 2, 64;

[3] Elizabeth Peabody to Sarah H. Peirce, 3 Aug. 1876, in Sarah Howard Peirce: Notebook of Poems, Music, & Miscellany, Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), 17:24, Dayton Metro Library (Dayton, Ohio); “Kindergarten,” Wikipedia, accessed 20 Jan. 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kindergarten.

[4] Dennis K. McDaniel, John Ogden: Abolitionist and Leader in Southern Education (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1997), 87-88, accessed 19 Jan. 2012 via Google Books, http://books.google.com/books?id=cyALAAAAIAAJ; Clyde O. Ruggles, Historical Sketches and Notes, Winona State Normal School, 1860-1910 (Winona, MN: Jones & Kroeger Co., 1910), 186-187, accessed 19 Jan. 2012 via Google Books, http://books.google.com/books?id=pXBTvmmnVnEC.

[5] Brief History of the Alumni of Central High School, vol. 2, 64; Sarah H. Peirce to Elizabeth F. Peirce, Aug.-Sept. 1876 (several letters), FPW, 13:26.

[6] “Portrait Displayed,” Dayton Journal, 19 Oct. 1930, FPW, 18:10; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 122-123; Brief History of the Alumni of Central High School, vol. 2, 64; Dayton City Directories.

[7] Sarah H. Peirce to Jeremiah H. Peirce, 1878-1879 (several letters), FPW, 13:23; Sarah H. Peirce to Mary “Mellie” F. Peirce, 1878 (several letters), FPW, 13:25; Sarah H. Peirce to Elizabeth F. Peirce, 1878-1879 (several letters), FPW, 13:26; Mary “Mellie” F. Peirce to Sarah H. Peirce, 7 Jan. 1880, FPW, 18:16; Brief History of the Alumni of Central High School, vol. 2, 64.

[8] Sarah H. Peirce to Jeremiah H. Peirce, 15 Feb. 1879, FPW, 13:23; A. D. Wilt to Sarah H. Peirce, 28 Apr. 1879, FPW, 17:15. Sarah specifically asks her father to speak to “Sam and Bob,” which probably refers to Samuel Davies and Robert Steele.

[9] A. D. Wilt to Sarah H. Peirce, 28 Apr. 1879, FPW, 17:15.

[10] Dayton City Directories.

[11] Dayton City Directories; Dayton Kindergarten and Primary School Program, 1892, FPW, 17:26; Augustus W. Drury, History of the City of Dayton and Montgomery County, Ohio, (Chicago: Clarke Publishing Co., 1909), vol. 1, 456-457.

[12] Dayton City Directories.

[13] “Portrait Displayed,” Dayton Journal, 19 Oct. 1930, FPW, 18:10; Sarah Howard Peirce: Newspaper Clippings, FPW, 18:10; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 122-123.

[14] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 122-123; Finding Aid, First Unitarian Church of Dayton Church Records (MS-230), Wright State University Special Collections & Archives (Dayton, Ohio), accessed 18 Jan. 2012, http://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/collection_guides/guide_files/ms230.pdf; “Portrait Displayed,” Dayton Journal, 19 Oct. 1930, FPW, 18:10.

[15] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 122.

8 responses to “Bio Sketch: Sarah Howard Peirce (1853-1930), founded first kindergarten in Dayton, Ohio

  1. Her first picture looks like she was caught having a bad day! You inspire me to be a better blogger. I just need to find the time to do it!

    • Haha! Thanks, Kim! Most of these “Bio Sketch” ones I wrote a while ago for finding aids but decided to post on the blog, in case anyone is looking for these people, they will (A) get some useful info and bibliography sources on them and (B) know that they can find primary sources (i.e. manuscripts!) pertaining to that person in our collections at the library. I think it’s win-win🙂

  2. Pingback: Bio Sketch: Joseph Peirce (1786-1821), pioneer, merchant, & banker in Dayton, Ohio | Glancing Backwards

  3. Pingback: Bio Sketch: Elizabeth H. (Forrer) Peirce (1827-1874), wife of J. H. Peirce | Glancing Backwards

  4. Pingback: Bio Sketch: Jeremiah H. Peirce (1818-1889), Dayton lumber dealer and founder of Five Oaks | Glancing Backwards

  5. Pingback: Bio Sketch: Mary (Forrer) Peirce (1838-1929), artist in Dayton, Ohio | Glancing Backwards

  6. Pingback: Bio Sketch: Elizabeth Forrer Peirce (1857-1930), nurse in Dayton, Ohio | Glancing Backwards

  7. Pingback: Bio Sketch: Howard Forrer Peirce (1865-1899), prominent musician in Dayton, Ohio | Glancing Backwards

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