Eliza Blaker (1854-1926) came to Indianapolis in 1882 to teach kindergarten at a private academy. With her roots in a Quaker family, Blaker believed in helping people through education. She left this first job in order to serve a more diverse community. She chose instead to work for the Indianapolis Free Kindergarten and Children’s Aid Society, where she would work with underprivileged children. As Blaker remarked, these kindergartens provided students an “opportunity to get a fair start in life; in fact, to feed the soul and, where necessary, to feed and clothe the physical body.” Blaker hoped to create for these youth an environment “in which the little one is happy, is harmoniously developed, and learns to think and act as a reasonable being endowed with a high destiny.”
Realizing that to achieve her goal, she needed trained kindergarten teachers, Blaker opened the Kindergarten Normal Training School in her own home in 1882. The school became the Teachers College of Indianapolis in 1905. In 1926 Blaker and Butler University reached an agreement allowing students of each institution to take courses from the other and receive credit. In 1919, Butler University created its Department of Education and in 1930, the university created the College of Education when the Department of Education and Blaker’s Teachers College merged.
The kindergartens Blaker established became the model for early childhood education across the state and eventually became part of the public school system of Indiana. Eliza Blaker maintained her deep commitment to the education and advancement of Indiana’s children throughout her life and her legacy lives on at Butler University and in the state of Indiana.