The CLEVELAND DAY NURSERY AND FREE KINDERGARTEN ASSN., INC., in 1894 promoted child-development programs that were eventually incorporated into the CLEVELAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS. The association had its roots in 2 organizations founded by LINDA THAYER GUILFORD in 1874, the Young Ladies' Seminary and the Young Ladies' Temperance League. The seminary inculcated FLORA STONE MATHER, JANE ALLYN FOOTE TRACY, and Julia Bolton Castle, among other pupils, with a belief in the value of education, a sense of moral responsibility for the poor, and a missionary spirit. League members promoted temperance but also provided single working girls with reading rooms, temporary lodging, and help with job searches. The emphasis soon broadened to the welfare of women and children. By 1877 the league set up a charity kindergarten at Olivet Chapel, but abandoned it in 1880 in favor of a day nursery.
Since the league's work overlapped with that of the Women's Christian Assn. (WCA), the organizations merged in 1882. Former league members created the Young Ladies' Branch of the WCA for work among children. The branch opened several nurseries—the Bethel, the Perry St. (later called the St. Clair St. and then the Perkins), and the West Side. For $.05 a day, the nurseries offered food, clothing, medical care, and a safe place for children while their mothers worked.
The branch then began to found kindergartens to aid in children's character formation, not just as a necessity for working mothers. LOUISE R. BARRON RAWSON, branch pres. from 1885-1908, convinced the WCA branch of the need to direct all of Cleveland's charity kindergartens. Within 6 months of her election, the branch opened a kindergarten at the Perkins Nursery, followed by 13 others by 1898.
In 1893 the branch split from the WCA to concentrate on its work with children. Within a year the resulting body, the Cleveland Day Nursery & Free Kindergarten Assn., incorporated as a nonprofit organization. Located at 2050 E. 96th St., its membership, funding, and mission remained unchanged. By 1900, with increased funding and rising attendance, the association operated vacation schools, supervised public school playgrounds, and sponsored sewing classes, mothers' meetings, and summer outings in addition to nurseries and kindergartens. The group opened the Cleveland Kindergarten Training School in 1894 to train teachers for the growing system of public as well as charity kindergartens.
After the Cleveland Board of Education incorporated kindergartens into public education in 1897, the association gradually dissolved its kindergartens, closing them all by the 1930s. The organization opened the city's first nursery school in 1923. In 1931 the association became the Cleveland Day Nursery Assn. (CDNA) and later hired professional staff. By 1969, when it was absorbed by the Family Services Assn. (later part of the CTR. FOR HUMAN SERVICES), the association operated 6 day nurseries, 25 daycare homes, and 2 centers, the Florence Harkness Camp, and the Hanna-Perkins Therapeutic Nursery School for preschoolers with emotional problems.