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Kindergarten for the Blind correspondence

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Perkins School for the Blind

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Original incoming correspondence and facsimile copies of outgoing correspondence relating to the creation and administration of the Kindergarten for the Blind, originally established in Jamaica Plain, MA.


12 linear feet



Processed by:

Amanda Landis, 2014; Revised in 2016; Restrictions revised added 2019; Rehousing of volumes 14-17 in 2022.

Processing note:

This collection was processed with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Division of Preservation and Access, Washington, D.C., 2012-2015.

Biographical/Historical notes:

Historical Notes:

Perkins School for the Blind did not originally accept any students younger than nine years old. However, Perkins trustees and directors were aware of the need to assist and safely educate young children: while scarlet fever and smallpox were significant causes of blindness, the majority of cases were due to ignorance or neglect. Michael Anagnos, the second director of Perkins School for the Blind and son-in-law of founding director, Samuel Gridley Howe, worked tirelessly for the establishment of a kindergarten, writing appeals and directing fundraising efforts.  

The United States’ first-ever Kindergarten for the Blind was established in Jamaica Plain, MA in 1887. The school, though separate from Perkins School for the Blind, was a success from the start. The first class consisted of only 10 pupils; by 1895, over 70 children were enrolled. Originally open only to children from New England, eventually children from around the country vied for admission into the school. The curriculum was modeled after early education visionary Friedrich Froebel’s first kindergarten and included music classes and manual arts training.

The Kindergarten remained separate from Perkins School for the Blind until 1913, when both schools moved to their current campus in Watertown, MA. The Kindergarten was integrated into Perkins’s curriculum, expanding instruction through sixth grade, and was renamed “the Lower School”.

Source: McGinnity, B.L., Seymour-Ford, J. and Andries, K.J. (2004) Kindergarten. Perkins History Museum, Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown, MA.

Biographical Note:

Michael Anagnos (1837-1906) served as the second director of the Perkins School for the Blind from 1876 until his death in 1906. Anagnos was instrumental in the creation of the Kindergarten for the Blind. He spearheaded the fundraising efforts, diligently publishing appeals and soliciting donations for the school fund.

Isabel Greeley served as principal matron of the Kindergarten and matron of the Boys’ School from 1887 to 1899. She was integral to the daily administration of and fundraising for the Kindergarten and wrote annual progress reports on the status of the Kindergarten. 

Edward E. Allen, Director of the Perkins School for the Blind from 1907 to 1931. Allen was an innovative and forward-thinking director; he facilitated Perkins’s move from South Boston to Watertown, MA, ensuring that the design of the new campus would better suit the needs of blind students and was a champion of the braille writing system.


This collection may contain student information, or student or family medical diagnosis that could be stigmatizing. Publication use of this material will be reviewed by Archives staff and subsequently may be restricted with conditions, or entirely.

It is the responsibility of the user to obtain permission to publish from the owner of the copyright (the institution, the creator of the record, the author or his/her transferees, heirs, legates, or literary executors). The user agrees to indemnify and hold harmless Perkins School for the Blind, its officers, employees, and agents from and against all claims made by any person asserting that he or she is an owner of copyright.

Credit line/Citation:

AG58 Kindergarten for the Blind Correspondence Collection. Perkins School for the Blind Archives, Watertown, MA.


Correspondence relating to the administration of and fundraising for the Kindergarten for the Blind; volumes are bound and labeled according to the type of correspondence and year. Incoming correspondence, supplementary, and Kindergarten donations are indexed alphabetically according to sender. Outgoing correspondence is indexed alphabetically according to the recipient, as all letters were written by directors Michael Anagnos and Edward E. Allen. 


4 series, 33 bound volumes, 5 boxes

  • Series 1: Kindergarten Letters (Incoming, addressed to Perkins Director) 1890-1921
  • Series 2: Supplementary Correspondence (addressed to matron/principal of Kindergarten) 1887-1903
  • Series 3: Kindergarten Donations 1884-1907
  • Series 4: Kindergarten Letters (Outgoing, written by Perkins Director) 1884-1921 

AG53 Perkins Correspondence Collection. Perkins School for the Blind Archives, Watertown, MA.

AG9 Michael Anagnos Collection. Perkins School for the Blind Archives, Watertown, MA.

AG1 Edward E. Allen Collection. Perkins School for the Blind Archives, Watertown, MA.

AG54 Students with deafblindness at the Perkins School for the Blind Collection. Perkins School for the Blind Archives, Watertown, MA.

AG20 Thomas Stringer Collection. Perkins School for the Blind Archives, Watertown, MA.

Container List:

Series 1: Kindergarten Letters (Incoming) 1890-1921

Correspondence is addressed to the director of Perkins School for the Blind. The bulk of the correspondence prior to 1900 is from Isabel Greeley, principal matron of the Kindergarten from May 1887 to July 1900. From 1900-1921, Nettie B. Vose, matron of the boys’ school, Julia M. Hill, matron of the girls’ school, and  Mary J. Jones, matron of the primary department, provide the majority of administrative correspondence.

Topics include: daily administration of the Kindergarten, including invoices and Ladies Visiting Committee reports; student enrollment and letters from parents; deafblind students, including Thomas Stringer and Willie Elizabeth Robin; updates from teachers regarding special students and open teaching positions; fundraising activities; admittance and discharge papers from Massachusetts General Hospital.

  • Volume 1, 1890-1891 [Note: Letters are addressed to John A. Bennett, acting director of Perkins School for the Blind while Anagnos was traveling.]
  • Volume 2, 1892-1893
  • Volume 3, 1894
  • Volume 4, 1895-1896
  • Volume 5,1897-1898
  • Volume 6,1899-1900
  • Volume 7,1901. [Note: Boston suffered a smallpox outbreak in 1901, with 1,596 reported cases and 270 deaths. This volume contains a number of donation letters in response to the epidemic.] 
  • Volume 8,1902. 
  • Volume 9,1903. [Note: Includes a letter from Thomas Stringer.]
  • Volume 10,1904. 
  • Volume 11,1905-1906. 
  • Volume 12,1907-1908. [Note: Early letters are addressed to Almorin O. Caswell, acting director after the death of Michael Anagnos in 1906. Correspondence addressed to Edward E. Allen, third director of Perkins School for the Blind, begins in September 1907.]
  • Volume 13,1909-1910.
  • Box 1: Volume 14, July 1911-June 1913, folders 1-3 [Note: correspondence is not bound]
  • Box 2: Volumes 14 -16: January 1911-September 1918, folders 4-10 [Note: correspondence is not bound]
  • Box 3: Volumes 16 -17: January 1916-June 1921, folders 11-16 [Note: correspondence is not bound]

Series 2: Supplementary Correspondence 1887-1906

Correspondence from 1887-1899 is addressed to Isabel Greeley, principal matron of the Kindergarten. From October 1899-1906 correspondence is addressed to Nettie B. Vose, matron of the boys’ school and former assistant to Miss Greeley.

Main correspondents include Perkins director Michael Anagnos; interim director John Bennett; Miss Martha Sawyer, clerk to Anagnos; Dr. G. M. Rowe, superintendent of Boston City Hospital; Thomas Stringer; Effie Thayer, special teacher to Willie Elizabeth Robin; Emily W. Foster, friend, and member of the Perkins Corporation.

Topics include administrative duties, including teacher appointments and field trips; student enrollment and school schedules; updates on students’ health, including discharge papers and status reports from Boston City Hospital; and letters from parents.

  • Volume 18: 1887-1891
  • Volume 19: 1892
  • Volume 20: 1893
  • Volume 21: 1894
  • Volume 23: 1896
  • Volume 24: 1897.
  • Volume 25: 1898.
  • Volume 26: 1899-1901
  • Volume 27: 1902-1903
  • Volume 28: 1904-1906, folders 1-7 [Note: correspondence is not bound]

Series 3: Kindergarten Donations 1888-1907

Incoming correspondence describing enclosing donations to the Kindergarten for the Blind, includes one-time personal donations, reoccurring annual donations, bequests, and external fundraising efforts. Volumes spanning multiple years have colored paper dividers separating the correspondence by year.

Notable donors include Samuel Eliot, William Crowninshield Endicott (as William Endicott, Jr.), Isabella Stewart Gardner, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., and Lucy Wheelock.

  • Volume 29, 1888-1894
  • Volume 30, 1895
  • Volume 31, 1896-1897
  • Volume 32, 1898-1900
  • Volume 33, 1901-1907

Series 4: Kindergarten Letters (Outgoing) 1884-1921

Letter copying books containing facsimile copies of all correspondence sent from the office of the Director. Volumes 1-4 are copies of handwritten correspondence; Volume 5 contains facsimiles of typewritten letters.

From 1884 to 1906, correspondence is sent from Michael Anagnos. Correspondence is signed by John A. Bennett, acting director, from June 1889-September 1890, while Anagnos is abroad, with the exception of a handful of personal correspondence written and signed by Anagnos.

Letters are originally written by Anagnos, however, in September 1887 handwriting of letters switches between those written by clerk Martha W. Sawyer, with Anagnos’s signature and Anagnos’s own hand. This is also true of John Bennett’s term as acting director (mix of letters written by him and written by Sawyer). Letters from Martha W. Sawyer (majority of which are addressed to I. Greeley) appear in September 1889.

After Anagnos’s death in 1906, correspondence is signed by Almorin O. Caswell, acting director. Letters from Anagnos’s successor, Edward E. Allen, first appear in July 1907 (Volume 5).

Prior to 1906, the bulk of the correspondence is to Isabel Greeley, matron of the Kindergarten, and Edward Jackson Jr., treasurer of the Corporation. Volume 1 primarily contains correspondence regarding fundraising and early administrative tasks for the nascent Kindergarten. Later volumes focus on students and enrollment, school administration, and fundraising, both for the Kindergarten and for the Thomas Stringer education fund.

  • Volume 34: 1884-1889 (originally labeled as 1884 only). [Note: Contains 10 pages of correspondence copied from other “letter books” 1882-1883, all relating to the opening of the Kindergarten. Includes an incoming letter dated December 24, 1890 from Bailey & Ayer, removed from its place in the volume and rehoused in a folder.  Final correspondence copied into the volume is a “confidential” letter to a Mr. [illegible] from John Bennett, advising that the trustees should not be voting on any construction on the Kindergarten while Anagnos is away.]
  • Volume 35: January 2, 1890 – April 5, 1894. [Note: This volume contains a number of letters written between John Bennett, Isabel Greeley, and Martha Sawyer, as well as letters sent to parents, regarding outbreaks of scarlet fever (“scarlatina”) and measles in the Kindergarten. The school was temporarily closed while students were quarantined in local hospitals.]
  • Volume 36: April 6, 1894 – July 12, 1896.
  • Volume 37: June 22, 1896 – April 4, 1901. [Note: Correspondence not written by Anagnos was transcribed by Anna Gardner Fish, clerk of the Institution.]
  • Volume 38: March 4, 1901 – September 12, 1906.
  • Volume 39: September 15, 1906 – June 27, 1921.


Perkins School for the Blind

Subject headings:

  • Perkins School for the Blind.
  • Perkins School for the Blind–History.
  • Blind– Education.
  • Blind—Education—Massachusetts.
  • Kindergarten.
  • Anagnos, Michael, 1837-1906
  • Stringer, Thomas, 1886-1945
  • Allen, Edward E. (Edward Ellis), 1861-1950
  • Gardner, Isabella Stewart, 1840-1924

Existence and Location of Copies

Links to digitized reproductions of the collection on the Internet Archive and select digital reproductions with full transcriptions on Perkins Archives Flickr are available on the digitized Kindergarten Correspondence Collection guide.

Explore more resources from the Archives

Learn more about our collections, including digitized materials, and resources related to the history of Perkins School for the Blind and the history of education for people with blindness or deafblindness.