Lucy Wheelock

Time Period


Notable Facts

Brought kindergarten to United States schools in the 19th century. Founder and director of the Wheelock School (Wheelock Collge in 1941), which specialized in training kindergarten teachers. Author of several children's books.

Personal Information

Date of Birth


Date of Death


Primary Residence




Historical Significance

Lucy Wheelock was born in Cambridge, Vermont and attended Underhill Academy before moving to Reading, Massachusetts. While in school, she traveled into Boston for French lessons and began to learn translation. She graduated from Reading High School in 1874. Wheelock returned to Vermont to teach for several years but then went back to Massachusetts to study at the Chauncey Hall School in Boston. She planned to attend Wellesley College, but after visiting a kindergarten class, she believed she had found her avocation. She was advised to enter the training school of Mrs. Ella Snelling Hatch, which she completed in 1879. She returned to Chauncey Hall, where she taught kindergarten for ten years.

Lucy Wheelock was particularly fond of the ideas presented by Friedrich Frobel, the founder of kindergarten. While teaching at Chauncey Hall, she translated his works along with those by Johanna Spyri, the author of "Heidi." In 1888 Boston instituted kindergartens in the Boston Public Schools. At Chauncey Hall, the Wheelock Training School was established, and Lucy Wheelock trained fellow teachers in a one year program. In 1893 the program was expanded to two years and in 1896 Wheelock left the Chauncey Hall School to form the independent Wheelock Kindergarten Training School. The training of teachers for primary grades was begun in 1899, and training of nursery school teachers began in 1926. In 1929, the kindergarten course was further lengthened to three years. Eventually, the Wheelock School expanded and by 1939, when Wheelock retired as Director, it had 325 students and 23 faculty members.

While training teachers in the field of kindergarten education, Wheelock also worked to extend kindergarten education to the poor. In 1895, she organized a free kindergarten at Hope Chapel, and later founded another kindergarten at South End House, a Boston social settlement.

Wheelock became active in the national kindergarten movement and served as the president of the International Kindergarten Movement. She also was involved with the National Congress of Mothers, a forerunner of the Parent Teachers Association and, in 1929, she was appointed to the Educational Committee of the League of Nations.

She is also known for applying kindergarten teaching methods to Sunday School classes. She taught a Saturday afternoon training class at the Primary Sunday School Union, which led to requests for her to speak at Sunday School teachers conventions nationwide.

Throughout her career, Wheeler wrote extensively. She produced numerous stories with moral themes for children including, "Allan's Thanksgiving," "Clifton's Lunch," "Cousin Ruth," and "A Lily's Mission." She also continued to translate works, such as "Red Letter Stories," and "Swiss Stories for Children," which were originally written by Johanna Spyri. She published a weekly column called "Hints to Teachers," in the Congregationalist, and was the editor of a weekly Boston Sunday school journal, "The Child's Hour." In 1920 she published, "Talks to Mothers," with Elizabeth Colson, which discussed child rearing, schooling, and the relationship between home and school.

In 1939 she retired as the director of the Wheelock School, which became Wheelock College in 1941. During her time there, she was awarded the Doctor of Letters degree by the University of Vermont in 1925. Her achievements were recognized with the highest honorary degree given to a woman at that time. On October 2, 1946 Lucy Wheelock died in Boston.

Organizations or Movements

  • President of the International Kindergarten Union (1895-1899)
  • National Congress of Mothers
  • Education Committee of the League of Nations (1929)
  • Women's Educational and Industrial Union
  • The Twentieth Century Club of Boston
  • Woman's Republican Club
  • Roxbury Neighborhood House
  • House of Good Will


  • Teacher: Cambridge, Vermont
  • Chauncey Hall School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Wheelock Training School
  • President of the International Kindergarten Union
  • Sunday School Teacher
  • Author
  • Translator
  • Editor
  • Director of the Wheelock School


  • Reading High School (1874)
  • Chauncey Hall School
  • Training School with Mrs. Ella Snelling Hatch (1879)

Additional Information (Bibliography)

  • Lucy Wheelock Link

  • Lucy Wheelock biography Link

  • Wheelock College Library-Archives Link

  • Those Indomitable Vermont Women

Additional Images

Lucy Wheelock
Lucy Wheelock
Lucy Wheelock
Lucy Wheelock
Lucy Wheelock
Lucy Wheelock