Our Story Begins on January 19, 1889
The Alumnae Association of the Girls’ High and Normal School was organized on January 19, 1889 and was incorporated three years later on June 10, 1892. It derived its name from that of the school, which, that year, was located at 17th and Spring Garden Streets –the first of two successive Girls’ High buildings on that corner — in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1893, The Philadelphia Normal School, at 13th and Spring Garden Streets was opened. Thus the two schools were separated, but the Alumnae Association retained its original name.
Twenty-five courageous, farsighted women signed our Charter. The objectives of the organization as given in the constitution are “the cultivation of social relations among the graduates, the promotion of the best interests of the school, and the furthering in every way of all efforts looking to the enlargement of opportunities for women.”
Origins of Enduring Commitment
Thus from its beginning, the founders of the Alumnae Association planned a cultural and philanthropic program, which attracted the attention and interest of civic leaders in Philadelphia. At that time women were not generally leaders in social and civic affairs. Clubs and Alumni groups were mainly men’s realm. When a Bazaar was held in 1891 at the Third Regiment Armory on South Broad Street, the Mayor, City Council members, prominent church groups and men’s clubs all supported the project. In a period of three or four days the magnificent sum of $67,000 was raised! These tremendous profits became the nucleus of our present treasury. To the foresight and enormous efforts of our founders and the early membership, we are deeply indebted.
In those early years of our organization, there was no teachers’ retirement plan. In 1893, the Annuity and Aid Association was established to provide aid to needy teachers who were graduates of the school. Much suffering was alleviated by the administration of this fund in a quiet and dignified manner. The Alumnae considered the Annuity and Aid Association and the Trust Fund the most glorious work of the organization.
The membership in those first days of the Association numbered approximately 1,000 graduates. The Alumnae Trust Fund expended about $1,200 annually and was used by graduates desiring to borrow money to further pursue their studies.
For some years in providing a cultural program for its members, the Association maintained weekly classes in French, German, physical culture, current literature, and Shakespearean study. In 1894, the Faculty of the University of Pennsylvania granted the request of the Alumnae Association that the Scientific Department be open to women, and that graduates of the Girls’ High and Normal Schools be entered without examination.
A permanent Fund was started in 1893 with the hope of raising enough funds to build an Alumnae House. This idea did not seem feasible; so the Alumnae Association rented an office in the Witherspoon Building on Juniper Street, where Executive Board meetings were held. This comfortable furnished room proved a favorite center-city place for Alumnae to meet their friends. In 1958, the Board of Education included in its plans for the new school building our lovely Alumnae Board Room, located on the first floor of GHS at Broad Street and Olney Avenue, and we are most fortunate to have this unusual privilege in a public school building.
In 1901, the Alumnae Association presented to the high school several fine reproductions of Greek and Roman statuary. Originally placed in the corridors and the assembly hall of the old building, the statues have been moved to new locations in subsequent buildings, and still today, these statues lend a classic touch to our modern school.
In 1915 a group of young students formed a second alumnae association, entitled The Alumnae Association of the Philadelphia High School for Girls. This group and the original group merged in June 1956. Both of these Associations had done many splendid things for their Alma Mater. Since their principles and ideals were similar in purpose, the merger resulted in an even stronger GHS Alumnae Association. The name of the newer association was adopted.