The poorest children in a community now find the beneficent kindergarten open to them from the age of two-and-a-half to six years. Too young heretofore to be eligible to any public school, they have acquired in their babyhood the vicious tendencies of their own depraved neighborhoods; and to their environment at that tender age had been due the loss of decency and self-respect that no after example of education has been able to restore to them.
Virginia Thrall Smith (1836–1903), U.S. educator and social reformer. As quoted in The Fair Women, ch. 13, by Jeanne Madeline Weimann (1981).
From a speech, "The Kindergarten," given at the Congress of Women at the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893. Smith established the first free kindergarten in Connecticut and pressed successfully for passage of a state law requiring public kindergartens.