Caroline Louisa Frankenberg
A Froebelian Kindergartener Who Must Be Remembered
The Encyclopedia of Early Childhood Education (1992) includes "Caroline Luis Frankenburg" (Caroline Louisa Frankenberg*) - along with Elizabeth Peabody, Kate Douglas Wiggin, Susan Blow, John Kraus and his wife Maria Kraus-Boelte - as being "among the many enthusiastic workers who established Kindergartens and developed institutes for the training of 'Kindergarteners' (i.e. kindergarten teachers)."
*Note: Writings about Caroline Louise Frankenberg use a variety of spellings for her first, middle, and last name. She is also referred to as 'Luise Frankenberg.' A Frankenberg family genealogy, which was prepared by Thomas L. Frankenberg, lists her as "Louise Caroline Sophia Suzette Frankenberg." Her living relatives speak of her as "Aunt Caroline." This article will use the name Caroline Louisa Frankenberg.
In 1901, photographs of Caroline Frankenberg and her school were on the front page of the Ohio State Journal with a headline article entitled, "Columbus, The Cradle of America's Kindergarten." The article included photographs and information about Mrs. Anna Ogden and her kindergarten teacher training school, as well as accounts of the efforts of several other women who promoted kindergarten education in Columbus, Ohio, during the last decades of the 1800's.
Professional publications have varied in the amount attention they have given Caroline Frankenberg. In some texts there is absolutely no mention of her whatsoever. In others, her name may appear in a sentence, in a paragraph, or as a footnote. Her work, and that of her brother Adolph Frankenberg, has received careful examination in the History of Early Childhood Education, by V. Celia Lascarides and Blyth F. Hinitz. The authors stated, "One wonders why Miss Frankenberg has been forgotten and not given credit for her work on behalf of the kindergarten in America." It is high time to focus a spotlight on her life and her role in bringing the Froebel Kindergarten to America.
Caroline Louisa Frankenberg was born on May 11, 1806, at Eddighausen in the Kingdom of Saxony (near Goettingen, Germany.) Her father was Philip Georg Frankenberg. Her mother was Amelia Friederica Louise Isenbarth Frankenberg. At this point in time, comparatively little is known about the family life of Caroline during her earliest years. It is believed that she was the seventh of eight children.
More is known about Caroline Frankenberg's life as she began to embark on her professional journey, which would last a lifetime. She studied with Friedrich Froebel and others at Froebel's School in Keilhau. Her older brother Adolph was a friend of Froebel and a teacher at Keilhau.
Undoubtedly, she was a part of the Keilhau community while Froebel's educational theories and materials were developing and evolving. She must have been aware of Froebel's concern that his ideas would never gain complete acceptance in his own country. Froebel began to speculate as to the possible places in the world where his educational ideas might flourish, including England and America.
In 1836 Caroline set out to join her relatives in Columbus, Ohio. Her journey involved an ocean voyage and what must have seemed like endless miles of horse-and-buggy travel. Nevertheless, Miss Frankenberg's belief in Froebel's educational principles and her desire to spread his ideas in a new country were strong.
Once Caroline was settled in Columbus, she was anxious to set up a school based on Froebel's ideas. She set about organizing her classroom and soliciting students. In time, she opened "A School for the Active Instincts of Childhood and Youth." The name implies that there was a wide age range of pupils, as there was at Froebel's school in Keilhau. The inclusion of the word "childhood" indicates that her school embraced the education of children form three to seven years of age, as did Froebel's "institution for the education of little children," which he established in Blankengurg in 1837. The name of her school also reflects Froebel's emphasis on learning through action and self-activity. Miss Caroline Frankenberg's school continued for a few years and little is known of what took place during that time.
However, despite her dreams and her dedication, Miss Frankenberg's school did not succeed, as she had hoped. Her difficulty with speaking English was one problem. She may have had trouble explaining this new type of school. Even parents who understood may have been slow to accept this revolutionary approach to education. Whatever the reasons, Caroline was disheartened. She left the United States in 1840 and returned to Keilhau.
For a period of six years, 1840-1846, she taught at Keilhau under Froebel's direction. It was in 1840 that Froebel had given the name of "Kindergarten" to his school for young children. She obtained a Kindergarten teaching position in Dresden in 1847. By 1852, she opened her own kindergarten in Bautzen.
Perhaps Caroline was strengthened by her additional years with Froebel and her experiences as a Kindergartener. Somehow, she decided to return to the United States. In 1858 she was in Columbus, Ohio, again. Once more Miss Frankenberg set up a school. While her first school had all the elements of Froebel's educational program, this time it was established as a Kindergarten. The term was foreign to the local citizens. Her request for an ad in the newspaper was delayed when the staff encountered difficulty in translating the word "Kindergarten".
Her school was a cheerful place where children sang and played. They were busy with occupations such as paper folding and clay modeling. It was a unique new concept. At this school, children enjoyed themselves as they learned. Some parents were intrigued and supportive while others were skeptical.
There were financial problems. In a short article in an 1861 newspaper she urged parents to visit the school and the garden. She stated that she had five students, but needed twelve additional children in order to continue the school. Miss Frankenberg taught the children to make lace which could be sold in an effort to make ends meet.
A year or so later, Caroline slipped on the ice and fell. Her injury was such that she could no longer care for herself. She went to live with relatives in Zanesville, Ohio. While she was there, she began a Kindergarten.
In 1865 she moved to Germantown, Pennsylvania. As fate would have it, she was the second elderly resident to be housed in the Lutheran orphanage. True to her nature, she introduced the Kindergarten system there. Caroline Frankenberg lived at the Lutheran Home for many years. Her indomitable spirit kept her involved with her profession and in touch with her family and friends. Records of the institution document that Elizabeth Peabody (who later started the first English speaking Kindergarten in America in 1860) visited her there. It is said that she kept models of some of the "gifts" as well as notebooks and letters in her room.
On November 8, 1882, was the date that Caroline Louisa Frankenberg died. She was buried in St. Nicholas cemetery , which is next to the Lutheran Home. Sadly, no granite stone marks her grave. Lacking the finances for a private grave her body was placed in a pauper's grave, and no record of its location remains. While relatives may have a few mementoes of her, it is believed that most of her personal items were burned.
Nevertheless, what remains is the story of her life. Her relatives still speak of her and are proud to call her, their own. Each generation seems to have a few "family historians" who tell the tale of her teaching and keep her story alive. Educators are increasingly aware of her. Some are taking time to research her life and her contributions. Students are inspired by her examples of dedication, determination, and devotion. As more information comes to light, it is hoped that Caroline Louisa Frankenberg's place in the history of education will become more permanently established.
Dr. Regina Weilbacher Rosier (Professor of Early Childhood Education at Urbana University, Urbana, Ohio) first learned of Caroline Louisa Frankenberg in 1976, when she came across a footnote in Dauntless Women in Childhood Education, which mentioned her "earlier attempt... to establish a kindergarten in Columbus, Ohio."
Over the years, Dr. Weilbacher Rosier has continued to research the life and work of Caroline Frankenberg. She has met and interviewed several members of the Frankenberg family including Paul Frankenberg of Columbus, Ohio, and Thomas L. Frankenberg of Massachusetts and, later, N. Carolina. She has traveled to Germantown, Pennsylvania, to meet with officials at the Lutheran Home.
1982 100th year of Caroline Frankenberg's death Library Display and Open HouseUrbana University's Swedenborg Memorial LibraryUrbana, Ohio
1986 Sesquicentennial of Pioneer Kindergarten1836 - 1986Library Display and Open HouseArrival of Historical MonumentUrbana University's Swedenborg Memorial LibraryUrbana, Ohio
1989 "Unveiling" of Historical MonumentSite of Miss Frankenberg's KindergartenCity Center Mall Parking GarageColumbus, Ohio
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