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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Grace Towns Hamilton, July 19, 1974. Interview G-0026. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Founding and role of the Gate City Kindergarten

Hamilton discusses the 1905 founding and role of the Gate City Kindergarten in Atlanta, Georgia. Hamilton recalls how her mother was actively involved in this organization while Hamilton was growing up. In addition to describing the childcare and fund-raising functions of the Gate City Kindergarten, Hamilton corrects the historical record regarding the founding of the kindergarten.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Grace Towns Hamilton, July 19, 1974. Interview G-0026. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JACQUELYN HALL:
Was the kindergarten for the children of A.U. people?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Oh, no.
JACQUELYN HALL:
It was for everyone?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I think they finally had five, in various… in neighborhoods pretty much around this part of the city, at that time. Though now they are all over, I mean, these day nurseries. They have five or six day nurseries in… you know, other parts of the community.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So they had five buildings in different places?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Oh, yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did they have… were the kindergartens held in homes, or… ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
No, they had little rented facilities. They were, you know, little houses.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And was it completely free? [interruption] I'm very interested in the Gate City Kindergarten, because I just read an article in the Journal of Negro History by [unclear] Lerner about black women in community organizations. And I think that there are a whole lot of mistakes in it.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I wouldn't be surprised.
JACQUELYN HALL:
One of the things that she says is that the Gate City Free Kindergarten Association was started by Mrs. John Hope.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
It surely was not.
JACQUELYN HALL:
That's what I thought.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
And I doubt… now, when Mrs. Hope came to Atlanta she may have… it would not have been surprising, because, you know, in a small community, all… or large community, the number of women at that period who had leisure and time and all to give to this, to give… Because all social work activity at that period was non-professional in the sense that…
JACQUELYN HALL:
Voluntary.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
… it was all voluntary service. AndBut she was certainly not a founder of the Gate City Free Kindergarten Association.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But the kindergartens were staffed by volunteers, mostly women like your mother… ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
They weren't staffed by them. The board was made up of these women who had the job of raising the money for them and hiring the staff and providing what in this day and age we call supervision. But they were not staffed primarily by volunteers. Of course, the pay was small, but they were… they had paid staff.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were they women from the community who were… ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I would guess so.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Poor women who… ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
No, people - most of them - who had some training in kindergarten work. Because one woman who just died, just a few years ago, was an A.U. graduate, I know, and worked in… I guess they'd call it now the head teacher. And she was a normal graduate of Atlanta University.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did they raise money?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Tag sales, candy sales, bake and everything that they could do. All that kind of…
JACQUELYN HALL:
And this was the earliest day care facility in Atlanta?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
As far as I know. I know it's older than the… it was the first, and for a long time, the only child care agency that was a member of the Child Welfare League. So at the very beginning, they were interested in quality care. And I just saw a notice in the paper that the present president of the Gate City Day Nursery Association has just been chosen a vice-president of the Child Welfare League. So that, you know, it's had… I know that when I worked at the Urban League, the Day Nursery Association had been and was then a member of the Child Welfare League and the other child… the other voluntary nursery association… What's it called? did not belong, you know. Was not at that time a member.