Women who taught Illinois

Women’s History Month is an important time to highlight and honor the women who worked hard to shape our state. This month, the caucus blog will be highlighting trailblazing women in multiple different fields through a series titled The Women Who Shaped Illinois. This is the first installation of this series, The Women Who Taught Illinois, focusing on women who worked in the field of education.

Lydia Moss Bradley

Lydia Moss Bradley (1816–1908) was known for her work as a philanthropist, and as the founder of  Bradley University.

In 1837, Lydia married her husband Tobias Bradley. Together, they raised six children. The Bradley’s prospered over the following decades due to their savvy real estate and banking ventures. Sadly, Lydia faced a series of tragic losses, as all six of her children, and eventually, her husband Tobias died within the span of two decades. 

In 1869, Lydia remarried and became the first woman in the United States to draft a prenuptial
agreement to ensure the security of her estate. In 1884, she founded the Bradley Home for Aged Women, to care for widowed and childless women. Some of her other philanthropic works include donating the land that currently holds the OSF St. Francis Medical Center, and establishing Illinois’ first parks system after donating 30 acres of land to the City of Peoria.

However, Lydia’s most notable project was the founding of the Bradley Polytechnic Institute, known today as Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. Following the death of her children, Lydia decided to honor their lives by providing a rich education for other young students in the area. Up until her death, Lydia remained actively involved with the school, rarely missing special events, and interacting with her students. 

Lucy Flower

Lucy Flower (1837-1921) was known for her work as a champion for the education of women and girls. 

In 1880, Lucy helped found the Illinois Training School for Nurses. This school was the first of its kind in Chicago, and she held positions as both the president and the director of the school. Lucy was
appointed to the Chicago Board of Education in 1891. While she worked in this position, she advocated for the citywide introduction of kindergarten and for manual and domestic training for younger grade levels. 

In 1895, Lucy was elected as a trustee at the University of Illinois. As the first female to hold this position, she was incredibly influential in the development of women at the university. Lucy championed the hiring of female faculty, worked to create a Woman’s Department and a Department of Household Science, hired a Dean of Women, and vigorously advocated to admit female students to their medical school.

Her influential work in education culminated in 1911 when she founded the Lucy Flower Technical High School for Girls on the South Side of Chicago. This was Chicago’s first open-enrollment school for girls and a landmark achievement for Lucy’s life work.

Rose Haas Alschuler

Rose Haas Alschuler (1887-1979) was a champion for early childhood education in the state of Illinois and across the country. She attended the University of Chicago and later married Alfred Alschler. Together they had five children.

Rose and her cousin Charlotte, worked together to form the first nursery school in Chicago, the Children’s Community School. In 1926, she worked to found the Winnetka Public Nursery School and assisted with opening nursery schools for the Garden Apartments tenants. Between 1933 and 1940, Rose set up 18 Works Progress Administration (WPA) nurseries. During the International Congress of Women in Chicago, she was the chair of the Opportunity Through Education Round Table. 

Later in life, Rose moved to Washington D.C. and served as the chair of the National Commission for Young Children where she educated providers about the need for early education programs.