Alice McLellan Birney aspired to create a better world for children at a time when many of them left school early in their teenspot_founders-day-01age years to begin working in factories. Alice found someone who shared her vision in Phoebe Apperson Hearst, and on February 17, 1897 they began to implement that vision with the first National Congress of Mothers meeting in Washington, DC. More than 2,000 mothers, fathers, teachers, laborers, and legislators attended that first meeting, establishing what has become the largest volunteer child advocacy organization in the country.

In 1970, the National Congress of Parents and Teachers merged with the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers—founded by Selena Sloan Butler to serve those schools in states that legally mandated segregation—to form the National PTA. Those three women, the founders of PTA, worked to improve the lives of every child at home, at school, and in their community. On February 17th, we remember their vision, reflect on our achievements, and renew our commitment to speak for every child with Founders’ Day celebrations.

If your PTA, PTSA, or PTA Council has not celebrated Founders’ Day in the past, consider planning a simple celebration this year. Use it as an opportunity to bring your school and community together to celebrate your PTA’s accomplishments, recognize volunteers and teachers, and showcase your students’ talents. You can find numerous ideas and resources for a Founders’ Day event online, including planning guides from California PTA and Georgia PTA, among others. National PTA provides some history you can share at your event as well as a short 8-minute video on PTA’s advocacy on behalf of children over the last 118 years.

If you plan on honoring volunteers, teachers, or others who have made a difference for your PTA, consider purchasing an Illinois PTA volunteer recognition award. Available awards include an honorary Lifetime Membership, Book of Recognition, Achievement Award, Distinguished Service Scroll, and Educator of the Year Award. Proceeds from all awards support the Illinois PTA Scholarship Fund, which awards scholarships annually to high school seniors who will be going into education or education-related fields (e.g., school nursing, school social work). Please order your awards three weeks prior to your event to ensure they arrive in time.