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First Things, August 2014

August 9, 2014

You probably know that the Caroline Severance Manor and the Caroline Severance School, next door to the church, are named for the founder of our church. In 1877, Caroline Severance started First Church in her home, near where USC is located today.

But maybe you don’t know why an affordable housing development and a school building that will house a neighborhood pre-school and church Sunday school is such a fitting tribute to Caroline Severance.

I recently discovered a book titled Musical Metropolis: Los Angeles and the Creation of a Music Culture 1880-1940 written by Kenneth H. Marcus. The development of music culture in Los Angeles is tied to the development of culture generally, including early childhood education. On page 39 the author writes:

“The proliferation of kindergartens in Los Angeles owed much to the tireless efforts of progressive reformer Caroline Seymour Severance. Bringing the enthusiasm of the New England Woman’s Club and New England Froebel Union, she moved to Los Angeles with her husband Theodoric in 1875, and helped persuade reluctant Angelenos that kindergartens could provide social services such as school lunch programs and day-care, and could also offer moral sustenance.

“Severance and other reformed-minded women founded the Los Angeles Free Kindergarten Association in 1884. With strong support by Severance’s Friday Morning Club, the Los Angeles Woman’s Club, bond sales, and a new city charter in 1889, the establishment and funding of kindergartens throughout the County became a reality by the end of the century.”

Caroline Severance’s passion for social justice changed the history of Los Angeles. It’s a thrill that we now have an appropriate opportunity to honor this remarkable woman.

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