Today in labor history: First U.S. public school established

On May 20, 1639, the first American public elementary school was established in Dorchester, Massachusetts. The original Mather School was a single one-room schoolhouse building located on what was called “Settlers’ Street.” In 1645 the town declared that the Mather building’s schoolmaster “shall equally and impartially receive, and instruct such as shall be sent and committed to him for that end whither their parents be poor or rich, not refusing any who have right or interest in the school.” This was arguably the beginning of the idea of free public education for all.

The Mather School relocated to another, larger building, in 1798 after the town voted to sell the old schoolhouse. It remains active today, located on Parish Street several yards away from the original location. It is noted for its diversity amongst student and staff body, and is operating for students of the Dorchester district spanning grades K through 5.

Photo: The Mather School in its second iteration – 1905. Wikipedia (CC)


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