Alice McClellan Birney, a widow, a school teacher, and a mother of two, looked around her community and saw children often ending their education at the eighth grade or even the fifth grade. She saw children working in factories and mines. And she determined that somebody needed to speak up for children and their needs.
She found a sympathetic partner in Phoebe Apperson Hearst, a philanthropist, suffragette, and the mother of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. With Birney’s vision and Hearst’s resources and connections, they planned to convene a meeting in Washington, DC on February 17, 1897.
Alice recorded in her diary that she would consider the meeting a success if 25 people showed up. In fact, over 2,000 attended that first meeting, and they included mothers, fathers, politicians, and businessmen. They founded the National Congress of Mothers to advocate for children not just in education, but in the community and home as well.
125 years later, that National Congress of Mothers, merged with the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers founded by Selena Sloan Butler, is known as National PTA, and it’s still the largest volunteer organization in the country advocating on behalf of children. So much of what we take for granted in our society today came about through PTA advocacy, including:
- Child labor laws
- Public school Kindergarten classes
- Public health service
- School lunch program
- Juvenile justice system
- Mandatory immunization
- Arts in education
In celebration of the 125th Anniversary of PTA, National PTA has created a collection of resources for PTAs to celebrate our founding. Included are resources on:
- Social Media
Share these resources with your PTA members. Be proud of the deep roots of advocacy that PTA has created over the last 125 years. And plan to continue to advocate for children by joining us March 29-30, 2022 in Springfield for the Illinois PTA Convention and Advocacy Day.