Hailmann School is named for a man, but his wife had a larger impact in the national education field

Mrs. E.L. Hailmann’s Training School for Kindergartners was on Osborn Street between Michigan and Indiana avenues. (Photo provided)

By Fern Eddy Schultz, La Porte County Historian

During the Bicentennial celebration for the State of Indiana throughout the year 2016, the La Porte County Historical Society Inc. displayed an approved project exhibit consisting of 45 individuals entitled

A page from one of Mrs. Hailmann’s books. (Photo provided)

Prominent People of La Porte County. This display included only a small portion of the individuals who qualified for this status in the county. Some of the people not only contributed to county and statewide betterment, but also nationwide and worldwide. The list of individuals who would qualify has reached approximately 240.

To be included in this program, the following criteria was applied:

— Must have accomplished some outstanding fete during the years 1916-2016

— The accomplishment must have provided some particular degree of benefit in area of expertise in which it is applied to the betterment of La Porte County and/or its inhabitants

— The designated person cannot have been included in the approved “Prominent People of La Porte County” project for the Bicentennial celebration of Indiana

— Must have been a resident of LaPorte County at some time during the period

La Porte County Historian Fern Eddy Schultz

Dr. William Nicholas Hailmann was selected to be one of the highlighted individuals. His wife, Eudora Lucas Hailmann, also qualified but was not included. Here is her story:

Eudora was born in Evansville (Vanderburgh County), IN, in 1841. In 1857 in Louisville, KY, she married William Nicholas Hailmann. She assisted her husband during his tenure as Superintendent of Schools in La Porte in the establishment of kindergartens. She also trained teachers for kindergarten work, wrote books about kindergarten methods and invented some of the materials used long after in that work.

Eudora had been educated in Louisville at the girls’ high school, where her sister was principal. It was there she met William Nicholas Hailmann. Their son, Harry W., was born in 1867. It is recorded that she had gone to Switzerland in 1862 as well as 1872. However, other information records her having gone only in 1872, taking their three children. The youngest was sent to kindergarten. They reportedly came home thoroughly awakened to the possibilities of the kindergarten movement. Her power to inspire was instant and she interested everyone she talked to. About four years later, she was called to Northampton, MA, to introduce kindergarten in the Florence knitting mills district.

In 1883, a call-back came for Dr. William Hailmann to work in public schools in La Porte. From 1883 to 1904, he served as Superintendent of La Porte City Schools. Upon entering the La Porte system, he began immediately to work toward establishment of kindergarten. He urged the doctrine of creation versus passivity, of expression versus repression for all children, not just “head” training as had been the custom of the past, but  “head, hand and heart” training. He established the department of manual training and of art when such advantages were almost unknown to public schools.

With the assistance of Eudora, kindergartens became a vital part of the La Porte schools when but one other city in the United States could claim that distinction. By 1886, although Eudora had been conducting training classes for three years, the plea to establish kindergarten went unanswered. Finally, a “Free Kindergarten Association” was organized by several progressive citizens. The group undertook the financing of Dr. Hailmann’s project for pre-primary schooling.

In November of 1888, the first “free” kindergarten opened in La Porte.  Eudora actively supervised the work and was assisted by her class of students in teacher training. She put into the kindergarten the principles of the Froebel system, a system that was to become widely popular in America many years later.

In July 1955, the decision was made to name the new elementary school in La Porte the Dr. William Nicholas Hailmann School. On the opening day of American Education Week, Nov. 11, 1956, the official dedication occurred.

The Hailmanns had four children: William A. (sometimes referred to as William N. Jr.); Elizabeth E. (sometimes referred to as Bessie by the print media), who was an instructor of violin music in San Diego, CA; Harry W., and Walter (who died early in life).  

Eudora made many contributions of kindergarten materials. She composed and edited books and songs, games and rhymes and a book of “Sacred Songs for Little Children,” for which her daughter, Elizabeth, composed the melodies.

Eudora died March 9, 1905, at the age of 64 years and is buried in Riverside Cemetery in North Reading, MA. (NOTE: Because of lack of citations given for this research, much of this information would need to be documented before it could be considered above and beyond dispute.)     

FERN EDDY SCHULTZ is the official state-appointed historian of LaPorte County.

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