Lucy Wheelock Essay

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Lucy Wheelock was an early-childhood educator, member of the late-nineteenth-century Kindergarten Movement, and founder of Wheelock College. Wheelock developed an innovative model kindergarten, wrote stories for children and articles on classroom pedagogy, and was appointed to the Education Committee of the League of Nations. During turn-of the-century debates on the future of early childhood education, Wheelock played the role of mediator between the old guard Froebelians and the progressives.

Wheelock was born in Cambridge, Vermont. Her mother was a teacher and her father was a Congregationalist minister and superintendent of schools. She attended Underhill Academy in Vermont, Reading High School in Massachusetts, and Chauncey-Hall School in Boston. She completed her kindergarten training with Ella S. Hatch, a protégé of Elizabeth Palmer Peabody. In 1879, Wheelock became the kindergarten teacher at Chauncey-Hall and developed an innovative approach to the curriculum that attracted national attention. In 1888, she was asked to establish a training school, later Wheelock College, designed to prepare young women for kindergarten teaching.

As president of the International Kindergarten Union (IKU) from 1895–1899, Wheelock attempted to unite emerging factions within the Kindergarten Movement. Wheelock believed that a true Frobelianism was open to experimentation and methodological evolution and could accommodate modern advances in child study and psychology. Although she was able to hold the IKU together for a time, orthodox Froebelians were ultimately unwilling to accept Wheelock’s revisionism and left the organization. In her later years, Wheelock wrote articles on parent education and home–school relations and became active in the National Congress of Mothers, later the Parent Teacher Association. After her retirement in 1939, Wheelock’s school was incorporated as Wheelock College.


  1. Beatty, B. (1995). Preschool in America: The culture of young children from the colonial era to the present. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
  2. Wheelock, L., & Colsom, E. (1920). Talks to mothers. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

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