Susan had a very comfortable lifestyle because of her father’s wealth and position in society. She also received a fine education, unlike many children of the time who spent their days working on farms or in factories. Susan’s father knew that she was very intelligent. In a letter dated 1857 he wrote, “Sue must have the best advantage in education.”
Susan had lessons with governesses at home and also attended a private school in New Orleans, Louisiana. She liked sharing what she learned with her younger brothers and sisters. In 1859, when she was sixteen, Susan attended a private school in New York City. Her education there was cut short by the Civil War
The Civil War was a military conflict that began on April 12, 1861, when Southern forces fired on Fort Sumter outside of Charleston, South Carolina. Several Southern states had seceded from the United States (also known as the Union) and formed the Confederate States of America (also referred to as the Confederacy) out of fear that the United States' newly elected president, Abraham Lincoln, would not allow the expansion of slavery into new western states. Battles and skirmishes were fought throughout the country by Union and Confederate forces. General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia, on April 9, 1865. As other Confederate forces heard the news of Lee's surrender, they surrendered as well and the war was soon over. Over half a million men were killed or wounded in the war. Thousands of former slaves gained their freedom. After the war, the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution were passed prohibiting slavery, providing equal protection for all citizens, and barring federal and state governments from denying citizens the right to vote due to their race, color, or status as a former slave.
. In 1861, the school shut down and Susan returned to Missouri. The Blows were pro-Union
Union is the term used to identify the United States and its government during the Civil War.
During the Civil War, Susan Blow studied on her own using the family library. She wanted to learn as much as she could. Some people thought she was “too bookish.” But Susan didn’t let anything stop her from studying or learning more. She even joined a group of thinkers in St. Louis so she could talk with others about her ideas.
Four years after the Civil War, Henry Taylor Blow was appointed ambassador to Brazil. Susan Blow went with her father and worked as his secretary for fifteen months. Afterwards, she traveled to Germany. There she had an experience that gave the rest of her life direction. She observed classrooms inspired by the work of
Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel (1782–1852).
Friedrich Froebel was a German educator who developed the Kindergarten or “children’s garden” in the 1800s. His twenty kindergarten gifts, or tools, were arranged to develop a child’s knowledge of solids, surfaces, and lines. The gifts also developed a child’s practical ability to build, draw pictures, and weave.
The title page of The Mottoes and Commentaries of Friedrich Froebel’s Mother Play.
Froebel compared educating children to nurturing plants in a garden.
an important leader in early education. In these "kindergarten" classrooms, Blow noticed that young children learn important language, math, and science skills by playing with
Froebel’s first, second, and third gifts
Objects used by kindergartners in Susan Blow’s classroom were called Froebel’s Gifts. They are also known as Froebel’s Tools. Susan Blow wrote about Froebel’s twenty kindergarten gifts in an essay entitled “The Kindergarten.”
such as balls and blocks. She decided that children in America should have this kind of instruction, too.