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Uncovering the History of Phoebe Hearst Elementary School

Learn the history of Phoebe Hearst Elementary School in North Cleveland Park, a school dedicated to the philanthropist, feminist, and suffragist. Find out why it's named after her, and learn about her influential work in early education.
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Phoebe Hearst Elementary School
Phoebe Hearst Elementary School

Hearst Elementary School up in North Cleveland Park, behind Sidwell Friends, is a cute little school for about 200 students. We’ve wanted to do a post on a local public school for a while and were curious where the name Hearst came from.

Below is an article that we found in The Washington Post, reporting on the dedication of the school from November 15th, 1932. The year prior, the First Lady, Mrs. Hoover, had attended the cornerstone laying ceremony.

Described by Senator Royal S. Copeland, of New York, in his dedicatory speech, as “a worthy monument to the most public spirited woman of her period,” the new Phoebe Apperson Hearst Elementary School at Thirty-seventh and Tilden streets northwest was dedicated last night with a program of music and oratory.

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Senator Copeland traced the career of Mrs. Hearst, laying stress on the important work she did while in Washington in laying the foundation for the kindergarten system and launching the parent-teacher movement. As a member of the District committee of the Senate, Senator Copeland pledged the advancement of every possible effort in interest of the local public school system and expressed confidence that his fellow members on the committee entertained similar sentiments.

Two grandsons of Mrs. Heart, William Randolph Hearst, jr., and John Hearst, presented an aquarium to the school in behalf of their father, William Randolph Hearst. They took part in the corner stone laying ceremony of the school last year. Miss Catherine Watkins, director of kindergartens in the District, accepted the gift.

Dr. Frank W. Ballou, superintendent of District schools, paid a tribute to the memory of Mrs. Hearst, and pointed to the school built in her name as a realization of the type of school she had in mind when she worked for the establishment of ideal school surroundings for young children.

So, Phoebe Hearst was a philanthropist, feminist, and suffragist. Along with Jane Stanford, she founded the Golden Gate Kindergarten Association which became the foundation for early education in California. Hearst was a strong advocate for early education and helped start countless free kindergarten schools throughout the country, which eventually became a part of the public school system.

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She also happened to be married to George Hearst, a wealthy miner and Senator from California. (The HBO series Deadwood is a fictionalized account of his mining exploits in South Dakota.) Not only that, but there’s another famous Hearst whom you might know. William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper magnate.

So that’s why it’s named Phoebe Hearst Elementary School. Any readers attend Hearst or have children that attend the school?

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