Women Who Move Us Series: Nina Anderson Pape

The Great TakeoverEducation Savannah, Women in SavannahLeave a Comment

by Morgan Lawrence
Read the lesser told stories of the Savannah women who passionately worked hard to bring about change, not just to benefit themselves, but to help the less fortunate.

We honor our forewomen by regaling others with their stories and sharing some wicked tales of true doyennes (badass female leaders) below and discovering the all-pervasive awesomeness that you won’t find in the monuments in Savannah.
Join us each Tuesday over the next few weeks for a new story.

Artwork by Morgan Lawrence

Nina Anderson Pape Snapshot:
A True Doyenne of Education

Beliefs That Drove Her Passion

Memorization was destructive to learning. Children should be taught to be creative thinkers.

The health and happiness of underprivileged children could be improved.

Girls could meet the same academic standards of boys.

Her Journey and Passion Projects

  • 1869

    Nina is born into a prominent family. Luck changes for family when father deserts mother and children and mother is forced to support family to the best of her ability after her investments in Central of Georgia’s Railroad are lost.

  • 1893

    Economic depression leaves Nina with very little money. Begins working at Massie Elementary School as a teacher to make money.

  • 1898

    Pape sets up The Fresh Air Home on Tybee Island for underprivileged children with 8 other Savannah woman.

  • 1905

    Pape leaves Massie after many of her progressive teaching techniques and practices were questioned and challenged. Pape and her colleagues open a private school called The Pape School. It later evolves into a college prepatory school and is today known as Savannah Country Day School.

  • 1911

    Becomes a proponent of the kindergarten movement. Sets up one of the first kindergarten programs in Georgia at The Pape School. Goes on to set up five kindergarten programs for children in depressed neighborhoods.

  • 1912

    Receives famous phone call from cousin Juliette Gordon Low who shares her idea on forming the Girl Scouts. Nina rounds up students from her school to serve as the first Girl Scouts. She also helps to write the Girl Scout’s first handbook.

“She introduced progressive education ideals… she recognized that a child really needed to think for herself or himself…education was not about memory, it was about creative thinking”

Paul Pressley
Feature:The Fresh Air Home

Savannah today is a very different Savannah than when it was first established. Visitors today glimpse through beautiful live oaks and enjoy scenic antebellum structures. In the early days of Georgia’s first city, the coastal town looked much starker, and relied upon the use of coal to spark the first industrialization of what we see today. It was the coal industry that gave way to Nina’s desire to improve Savannah. While working as a teacher at Massie, Pape saw a need for underprivileged children to get out of the city and broaden their experiences and improve their health. To meet this need Pape started The Froebel Circle in 1897, a group with a mission to give less privileged children in Savannah an escape from their home lives and visit the beach. Many of the children had never seen the ocean despite its location being just thirty minutes away. The Fresh Air Home became the name of the summer getaway for children in need. Once there, they could swap malnourishment, dirty coal covered streets for clean ones, fresh air, and some extra positive attention from one of the many volunteers who ran it. Children participated in “healthy” activities that were said to feed “the spirit as well as the body.” The experience would have a lasting impression on the children who attended and would be just just one of the many ways Nina Pape contributed to a strong educational legacy in Savannah, GA. The Fresh Air Home is still in operation and opens for 8 weeks during the summer months.

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