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In 1897,Alice McLellan Birney and Phoebe Apperson Hearst organized the first gathering of the National Congress of Mothers in Washington, D.C. Mobilizing at a time when women did not have the right to vote, the two nevertheless knew that mothers would respond to a mission meant to bolster child wellbeing. Nearly 2000 people, made up of mothers, fathers, teachers, labor leaders, and legislators, convened in Washington, D.C. on February 17, far exceeding the attendance that the two women expected. The National Congress of Mothers soon became the National Congress of Parents and Teachers, and began founding state affiliates across the country. President Theodore Roosevelt was the first Chairman of the Congress’ Advisory Committee and represented the group at both national and international functions.
Seeking to find a way to get African American parents more involved in their children’s education at a time when schools were segregated, Selena Sloan Butler formed the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers (NCCPT) in 1911. The NCCPT began in Atlanta, Georgia, and quickly spread across many other states, advocating for better conditions for African American students. When the National Congress of Parents and Teachers, called National PTA by this time, merged with the NCCPT in 1970, Butler was named an official founder of the association and is recognized alongside Alice Birney and Phoebe Hearst as such.
Our Legacy in Leadership
As we remember PTA’s history, it is important to recognize the association’s rich legacy of advocacy. The association was founded as a vehicle in which families could promote policies protecting the best interests of their children. Since its establishment, National PTA and its affiliates have, among other things, been instrumental in successfully getting policies such as child labor protection laws, mandatory kindergarten, and school lunch programs implemented, and have fought for protecting arts education, passing fair juvenile justice laws, and crafting safe school policies.