Patty and Mildred Hill: Celebrating Kentucky Educators During Women’s History Month

GoodMorningToAll_1893_songMarch is Women’s History Month, and here in Kentucky we have many women to celebrate—among them scientists, political leaders, activists, medical professionals, and veterans.

Kentucky is also home to a number of women who transformed the educational system. Lincoln County’s Sophia Alcorn, for example, developed the Tadoma method for communicating with students who are blind and deaf and advocated for students with disabilities. And Lucy Harth Smith was the principal of Booker T. Washington elementary school in Lexington for 37 years and encouraged the development of stronger education for African-American children across the United States.

Another Kentucky woman, Patty Hill, was a pioneer in the kindergarten movement. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Patty brought new educational reform ideas to Kentucky. While directing the Louisville Experimental Kindergarten School, she developed curricula that encouraged children to learn through play, music, and contact with nature. She became a national educational leader, and this experimental curricula is now the foundation for many of today’s early childhood education classrooms.

What Patty is remembered for, however, is not her educational leadership. In 1893 Patty and her sister Mildred, a musician and educator, published Song Stories for the Kindergarten, a songbook for teachers to use with their students. One of the songs in that book, “Good Morning to All,” later became the melody for “Happy Birthday to You.” The Hill family eventually earned the rights to the “Happy Birthday” royalties and deposits them into an educational foundation.

The City of Louisville dedicated a park in honor of Patty and Mildred, and community members are working to improve the site of the park—currently a parking lot in downtown Louisville. Find out more about the Happy Birthday Park and how you can support its development here.

Want to learn about other women leaders in Kentucky? The Kentucky Commission for Women’s “Kentucky Women Remembered” project honors influential women each year. Take some time to celebrate Women’s History Month and read about those women here.

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