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Grace Dodge was not only a passionately committed social reformer, she was an enterprising one at that. Between 1880 and 1887, Dodge, who was gifted in her ability to plan for the future, laid the building blocks for the establishment of Teachers College.

It was only a few years after its founding in 1880 that Dodge and the group of women who administered the Kitchen Garden Association (KGA) recognized that the organization had outgrown its original philanthropic mission to teach poor girls the fundamentals of domestic service based on a popular instructional model of kindergarten education. In the context of the growing support of the manual training movement among social reformers and leaders in education during this period, Dodge orchestrated the redesign of the KGA, which was subsequently renamed the Industrial Education Association, Annual Report, 1885 (PDF)Industrial Education Association (IEA) in 1884. Among other goals, the IEA aimed to provide instruction in the industrial arts for both sexes and to make the industrial arts (including the manual arts and the domestic arts) an integral part of public education.

Given the new objectives of the association and the broad resources required to realize them, Dodge and her associates recognized the need for male support and actively recruited men to participate in the administration and governance of the IEA. While several prominent New York business and professional leaders agreed to serve on the association’s Board of Managers, William Dodge, Jr., Grace’s father, Frederick A. P. Barnard, who was president of Columbia College and Seth Low, who was the mayor of Brooklyn, were made honorary members. Alexander Webb, who was president of the College of the City of New York, was appointed president of the IEA; though, Grace Dodge, who was designated vice-president, assumed the active leadership role.

Dodge ably directed the IEA. Having grown up in a family that controlled large, sophisticated business concerns, she learned to think in terms of growth and expansion. Hence she made big, ambitious plans for the IEA, which, supported primarily by donations and subscriptions, grew rapidly. The steady rate at which the IEA expanded its programs and activities continually placed the organization, in fact, in the position of searching for larger facilities to accommodate its services. That came to an end in the summer of 1886 when Dodge secured a permanent home for the IEA in the old Union Theological Seminary Building at 9 University Place in Greenwich Village.

From its headquarters there, the IEA offered a wide range of services, becoming in Dodge’s words, "a center of agitation, of information and of organization." Among other activities, the IEA sponsored classes in the industrial arts for public school children, training classes for teachers in industrial education, public lectures on topics related to the manual and domestic arts, and classes in the domestic arts for adult women. In addition, the IEA functioned as a bureau of information about industrial education. It published and disseminated articles about manual training and solicited and organized information on the subject from sources across the country. According to the association’s official reports, hundreds of people from all parts of the country came to the offices of the IEA in search of information about training in the manual and domestic arts.

One of the association’s main objectives was to stir public interest in industrial education. Broadside for the Children's Industrial Exhibition With that in mind, the IEA in 1886 sponsored the Children’s Industrial Exhibition at Cosmopolitan Hall, on the corner of 41st and Broadway. A great success, the exhibition, which, was open for seven days, received seven thousand visitors, displayed work in industrial education from seventy different schools, organizations and agencies in New York City and the surrounding region, and attracted significant notice by the New York press.

Among the issues discussed in the press was the fact that the New York City public schools were not represented among the institutions displaying work in the exhibition at Cosmospolitan Hall. Despite the success of the IEA’s efforts to promote industrial education, the New York City public schools had remained more or less indifferent to training in the manual and domestic arts as a curricular innovation.

In an attempt to assuage public concern that the New York public schools were not keeping pace with this trend in education, Mayor William R. Grace (who had known Grace Dodge since she was a child) in 1886 appointed her and Mary Nash Agnew, the wife of a Columbia College trustee, as the first female members of the New York City Board of Education. Dodge served on the board for three years, during which time she investigated the Nicholas Murray Butlermaintenance of school buildings, made recommendations for the adoption of textbooks, addressed inequities in the salaries paid to female teachers, and avidly promoted industrial education.

Shortly after her appointment to the Board of Education, Dodge, intent on keeping the IEA on the cutting edge of reform, restructured the association to support a shift in its goals and purposes. A shortage of trained teachers in industrial education, a problem of immediate concern to the IEA and one it was intent on helping to resolve, specifically reshaped the association’s mission in terms more specific to the goals of public education. It was abundantly clear to Dodge that the IEA had transcended its role as a philanthropic reform organization. Feeling unqualified to lead the IEA at this juncture, Dodge relinquished a good part of her executive duties, deferring to the IEA’s new salaried president, Nicholas Murray Butler, who was appointed in February 1887.

Butler, who, prior to his appointment to the presidency of the IEA was an associate professor of philosophy at The Library of the New York College for the Training of Teachers at 9 University Place, ca. 1890.Columbia College, had been preparing for a career in education, had grand plans for the transformation of the IEA into a reputable educational institution dedicated to the professional training of teachers and the study of education. In line with his plans, the IEA soon evolved into the New York College for the Training of Teachers, which, one year after Butler’s resignation from the presidency in 1891, became Teachers College. In the years following Butler’s resignation, Teachers College moved from its home at Library of the New York College for the Training of Teachers at 9 University Place, ca. 1890.9 University Place to a new campus, adjacent to Columbia University on Morningside Heights, and Grace Dodge once again assumed a leading role in the institution she had built from the ground up.

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