Owen F. Dolen, educator, advocate

In 1925, Owen F. Dolen (c.1864-1925) was asked to speak at a ceremony in this park, then known as Westchester Square. The occasion was the unveiling of a new monument to the neighborhood soldiers who died in World War I (1914-1918).  Dolen was a well-respected educator and life-long member of the Bronx Westchester Park community, and had spearheaded the campaign to place the memorial at the square. He gave a rousing twenty-five minute speech, bowed to the crowd, sat down, and died of a heart attack just minutes later. On April 30, 1926, the Board of Aldermen (now the City… Read More

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Mary Bowne Parsons, abolitionist

The Bowne family had a long history of service and Mary Bowne Parsons (1784-1839) opened her home up to run away slaves in the Flushing area of what we now know as Queens. During her residency, the Bowne house was rumored to be a stop on the underground Railroad. Mary Bowne Parsons founded a school for indigent young women called the Flushing School for Young Women. They were taught reading, writing, arithmetic and needle and sewing skills, with the hope that they could go out and be self-supporting. The Bowne house became a museum in 1947. Up until 1945, members of the Bowne family… Read More

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Catherine Ferguson, educator

Catherine Ferguson (1779 – July 11, 1854) was an African-American philanthropist and educator who founded the first Sunday school in New York City. Ferguson was born into slavery in 1779, while her mother, was being transported from Virginia to New York City. She and her mother were separated when she was 8 years old and never saw each other again. This separation caused her to devote herself to children throughout her life. Her freedom was bought by a friend during her mid teen years and she worked to pay that off, receiving assistance from her friend, and Divie Bethune. She became a baker in NYC. She married at 18 and had 2… Read More

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Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage, philanthropist

Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage supported herself by teaching for over 20 years in Syracuse New York.  In 1869 at age 41, Olivia Slocum married Russell Sage, a widower, financier and robber baron who was 12 years older than she. They had no children. Ms. Sage became involved in activities in which her role as his wife defined her.  In 1906 Sage died and left his entire fortune of about $70 million to her, which was unrestricted for her use. In his name she used the money for philanthropic purposes. She established the Russell Sage Foundation in 1907 and founded the… Read More

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Lucy Sprague Mitchell, educator, advocate for children’s education

Lucy Sprague Mitchell (1878–1967) was an American educator and the founder of Bank Street College of Education. A Radcliffe graduate, Mitchell was the first dean of women at the University of California at Berkeley, where she lectured in the English Department and promoted educational and career opportunities for women students from 1903–1912.  In 1916, influenced by the work of John Dewey, Mitchell founded the Bureau of Educational Experiments (BEE) in New York City to study and develop optimal learning environments for children. Mitchell sought to create a group of thinkers from different fields to study child development and to advocate… Read More

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Johanna Bethune, philanthropist, educator

Johanna (Graham) Bethune co-founded the New York Orphan Asylum at Barrow and Fourth Streets with Mrs. Alexander Hamilton  and started the city’s first school for “young ladies.” She gave the city the land for Bethune Street, in the West Village, which is named for her. Ms. Bethune is often described as an “early 19th-century philanthropist and educator who ceded the land for the street to the city.” This and the school allowed African students and at times over 50% of the students were black. One of the first opportunities for black children in the early 1800s to attend free school. Bethune… Read More

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