(Mar. 4, 1854-Dec. 4, 1926). A native of Philadelphia, Blaker graduated from that city’s Girls’ Normal School and, in 1880, from the Centennial Kindergarten Training School, the first of its kind in the nation. Nineteenth-century kindergartens departed radically from conventional education. They were opposed to rote memorization, formality, and discipline, seeking instead to cultivate the preschool child’s natural potential in a liberating atmosphere of play, aesthetics, and outdoor experiences.

With her husband, Louis Blaker (d. 1913), Eliza came to Indianapolis in 1882 to organize a kindergarten in connection with the Hadley Roberts Academy. Concurrently, a Free Kindergarten Society connected with the Indianapolis Free Kindergarten and Children’s Aid Society persuaded Blaker to organize a free kindergarten to aid the community’s charitable efforts toward its underprivileged children.

She began to train teachers, and in 1883 established the Kindergarten Normal Training School, which in 1905 became the Teachers College of Indianapolis. All trustees, teachers, and students were women. The college affiliated with Butler College (Butler University) in 1926 and moved to the latter’s campus in 1933.

A group of students stand on the steps of a building.
Students of Madam Blaker’s School for Teachers including Eliza Ann Cooper Blaker, 1924 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Besides her work as a college president, teacher, and lifetime superintendent of free kindergartens, Blaker instituted mothers’ meetings in the schools and formed a Mothers’ Council and a thrice-yearly Mothers’ Mass Meeting. She led a victorious fight in 1901 for local tax support for kindergartens. She organized Saturday domestic training classes, the city’s first, and was instrumental in founding and supervising Indianapolis’ first directed playground in Military Park (see Playground and Pool Movement). 

A member of numerous community organizations, Blaker helped establish the Indianapolis Council Of Women. She lived to see her approach to kindergartens adopted throughout the nation. Hanover College awarded her an honorary doctorate in 1917 and an Eliza A. Blaker Club, formed in 1934, perpetuates the educator’s philosophy Indianapolis Public School 55 was renamed the Eliza A. Blaker School in 1958. Later, the Blaker Club established a memorial room at Butler in her honor.

Revised February 2021

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