All Events

1921
Little Red School House Founded by Elisabeth Irwin

Little Red School House Founded by Elisabeth Irwin

Elisabeth Irwin founded the Little Red School House in 1921 in the attic room of the P.S. 61 Annex at 535 East 16th Street as an alternative public elementary school. Parents and students loved the new dynamic learning community. It..Read More

1925
First June Camp

First June Camp

From 1925 through the early 1960s, all LREI students spent the month of June in the country. This was called June Camp. LREI continues this tradition with a four-day trip for lower school students we now call the Farm Trip.

1929
LRSH at P.S. 41

LRSH at P.S. 41

The Little Red School House at P.S. 41 on Greenwich Avenue in the heart of the Village opened in February of 1929 with 4 classes: two kindergartens and two first grades, numbering 90 children. Elisabeth Irwin felt the circumstances were..Read More

1932
Roosevelt and Dewey Help LRSH

Roosevelt and Dewey Help LRSH

Upon reading the news, John Dewey fumed publicly that the Board’s decision to eliminate Elisabeth Irwin’s public-private partnership was “reactionary and an outrage.“ Eleanor Roosevelt, then First Lady of New York State, worked behind the scenes to  gain support for..Read More

1932
Board of Education Cuts Funding to LRSH

Board of Education Cuts Funding to LRSH

The Great Depression prompts the New York City Board of Education to announce that it will no longer fund Elisabeth Irwin’s progressive experiment at P.S.41. In the spring of 1932, the Great Depression was hitting every institution in American life..Read More

1932
Parents Save LRSH

Parents Save LRSH

Parents meet at an ice cream parlor on Sixth Avenue and resolve to raise money to continue Little Red School House as an independent school.

1932
Classes begin at 196 Bleecker Street

Classes begin at 196 Bleecker Street

We opened that first fall with five groups of children, from 5 to 9 years old — 161 children in all. The next year we added a 10 year-old group. Each year we added another group, taking all children who..Read More

1932
First Parent Association Meeting

First Parent Association Meeting

The first parent association meeting is held in LRSH’s new building at 196 Bleecker Street.

1934
International Exhibit of Children’s Paintings Benefit

International Exhibit of Children’s Paintings Benefit

In 1934, LRSH organized the first International Exhibition of Children’s Painting at Rockefeller Center, representing work from forty countries. It honored the creativity of children on a scale that had never been imagined before, let alone attempted. Eleanor Roosevelt, the..Read More

1935
Children Experiment with Life

Children Experiment with Life

Students examine farm equipment at June Camp in the 1930s. “Just this, I should say is the task of education today – to change our school from monasteries into laboratories, laboratories not where educators experiment with children but where children..Read More

1937
LRSH Purchases Bleecker Street Building

LRSH Purchases Bleecker Street Building

The Little Red School House purchases 196-198 Bleecker Street from The First Presbyterian Church, who had let the school use the building free of charge until then.

1938

New York State Board of Regents Grants Absolute Charter to LRSH

The Charter permitted LRSH, among many other legal privileges, the right to certify each child’s attendance, the successful fulfillment of the state’s educational requirements and, as a not-for-profit corporation, the right to solicit contributions to support the school’s operations.

1939
Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking

Students work independently, together, and with their teacher in this 1930s science classroom. Critical thinking must involve complete freedom of speech in the classroom. The child is not told what to think but rather is challenged to think straight. An..Read More

1939
Democracy Pamphlet

Democracy Pamphlet

As is promised in LREI’s mission statement, “Students graduate from our diverse community as active participants in our democratic society,…”  Elisabeth Irwin and three of her early colleagues, in the language of the times, shares their thoughts on this important..Read More

1941
High School Opens

High School Opens

LRSH purchases the 40 Charlton Street building, a former church and settlement house purchased from the Episcopal Mission Society, and opens the high school, which is posthumously named for Elisabeth Irwin in 1942.

1942
Elisabeth Irwin Letter to Students

Elisabeth Irwin Letter to Students

Elisabeth Irwin sent this very moving letter to students, written from her hospital bed weeks before her death. In the letter, she encourages the students to “Please sing the songs that we love so well so that I can hear..Read More

1942
THE LITTLE RED SCHOOL HOUSE Published

THE LITTLE RED SCHOOL HOUSE Published

Agnes Delima’s The Little Red School House is published. Contributors include Elisabeth Irwin, John Dewey, and LRSH teachers.

1942
Elisabeth Irwin Dies

Elisabeth Irwin Dies

Elisabeth Irwin dies on October 16, 1942 at New York Hospital.

1943
Dr. Randolph “Rank” Smith Becomes Director

Dr. Randolph “Rank” Smith Becomes Director

Near the entrance to 198 Bleecker Street is a small brass plaque that honors the man who led our school for 25 years between 1943 and 1968. Dr. Rank Smith, who succeeded Elisabeth Irwin, was considered by contemporaries as one..Read More

1943

Leonard Bernstein, Virgil Thomson, Pearl Bailey Perform at Benefit

Leonard Bernstein, Virgil Thomson, Pearl Bailey, and others  perform at a benefit concert at Town Hall in 1943 to raise funds for the machine shop and science laboratory for wartime courses.

1944
EI Students Get to Know their Neighbors

EI Students Get to Know their Neighbors

EI students interview journalist Celila Ventura about her Italian heritage in an effort to understand the Italian-American community just east of the school. “Instead of interviewing, I was interviewed by thirty well-behaved, friendly children,” Ventura writes. “Their questions ranged from..Read More

1945
Students Mobilize for Yugoslav Relief

Students Mobilize for Yugoslav Relief

LRSH students participated in the American Committee for Yugoslav Relief’s Winter Clothing Campaign to aid Yugoslav children in need.

1945
EI High School Song

EI High School Song

Hear Tom Hurwitz, ’65, sing the Elisabeth Irwin High School song, written by David Roland, ’48 and Alan Garb, ’47. Listen to Hurwitz’s StoryLab interview where he talks about why the song is no longer sung, and about the only..Read More

1945
Elisabeth Irwin Graduates Its First Class

Elisabeth Irwin Graduates Its First Class

Read about EISH’s early years and its first graduating class in INFO, the high school newspaper.

1945
LRSH Student Gives Speech Before State Legislature, Receives Letter from Eleanor Roosevelt

LRSH Student Gives Speech Before State Legislature, Receives Letter from Eleanor Roosevelt

Paul Coburn, a ten-year-old at LRSH, made a speech before the State Legislature, in favor of the Ives-Quinn Anti-Discrimination Bill, which would make New York the first state to enact legislation curtailing the practice of discriminating against job applicants and employees based on race, religion, or creed...Read More

1945
Democracy in the Classroom

Democracy in the Classroom

On democracy in the classroom: Of course the approach to this idea with very young children would necessarily and naturally be very different from that used with older children. … One does not use the word itself …[ b]ut one..Read More

1945
Abraham Lincoln Carries On Club

Abraham Lincoln Carries On Club

10-year old LRSH students fight to end racial bias and advocate for legislation banning discrimination in employment based on race, creed, color, and national origin by forming the Abraham Lincoln Carries On club. They wrote to Mayor Laguardia, urging him..Read More

1945
EI Students Send Christmas Boxes to European Children

EI Students Send Christmas Boxes to European Children

EI students send ninety Christmas boxes of goods to European children in need in Russia, Yugoslavia, France, and Greece.

1946
Students Visit Phelps-Dodge Strike

Students Visit Phelps-Dodge Strike

Ninth graders visit the Phelps-Dodge Strike at the Phelps-Dodge Copper Products Corporation plant in Elizabeth, NJ. The eight-month-old strike was one of the longest major industrial disputes on record in the nation, resulting in a 18.5% hourly wage increase and..Read More

1946
LRSH Action Committee

LRSH Action Committee

The Little Red School House Action Committee joined other Greenwich Village schools in a brave try at getting some of its “anti-everything neighbors” to see the “other fellow’s point of view”.  It established a Human Relations Workshop with the aim..Read More

1946
Integration in Baseball

Integration in Baseball

INFO, the school newspaper, devotes the majority of its February 1, 1946 issue to advocating for integration in baseball. INFO editors, harnessing the power of the press, write to sports writers of their day, and excerpted responses from eight journalists,..Read More

1947
Avon Long Performs at EI

Avon Long Performs at EI

Broadway star Avon Long performs at EI as part of Black History Week celebration.  

1947
Freedom of Speech in the Classroom

Freedom of Speech in the Classroom

Students in Mabel’s 9s class explore a map of the United States in the 1940s. Needless to say, this critical thinking must involve com­plete freedom of speech in the classroom. The child is not told what to think but rather..Read More

1948
Israel Drive

Israel Drive

EI held a month-long drive to aid people in Israel. The money collected was given to the United Palestine Appeal (UPA), a member of the a member agency of the United Jewish Appeal and a major fund raising agency for..Read More

1950
EI Marches with NAACP

EI Marches with NAACP

Elisabeth Irwin students marched with a delegation from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Washington D.C. on January 16, 1950 to advocate for Congressional action on the passage of the Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC). EI..Read More

1951
LRSH Saved from Demolition

LRSH Saved from Demolition

LRSH is saved from demolition under Robert Moses‘ never-realized slum clearance plan despite his finding that it was “not advisable” for the school to remain standing (see letter). The threat of demolition that has hung over the Little Red School..Read More

1952
Jack Gilford and Harry Belafonte Perform at LRSH Fundraiser

Jack Gilford and Harry Belafonte Perform at LRSH Fundraiser

Third Annual Midnight Show of Stars to benefit the scholarship fund on Saturday, April 5, 1952 at the high school features Jack Gilford, Harry Belafonte and others. These annual fundraisers began at midnight and went well into the wee hours.

1952
Dr. Randolph B. Smith Defends the Bill of Rights

Dr. Randolph B. Smith Defends the Bill of Rights

Randolph Smith was called to testify on “Subversive Influence in the Educational Process” at hearings before the Committee on the Judiciary of the United States Senate in September, 1952.

1953
Sophomore Girls Visit Welfare Island

Sophomore Girls Visit Welfare Island

Three tenth grade EI students volunteer at the Metropolitan Hospital on Welfare Island. The students were members of the Councillettes of Jewish Women, an organization composed of girls from thirteen to seventeen years of age. Their job was to “keep..Read More

1954
Frank Silvera Visits EI

Frank Silvera Visits EI

As part of E.I.’s observance of Black History Week, Tony-nominated actor Frank Silvera, spoke to students about the history of Black actors in American theatre.

1954
Tribune Forum Exchange Students

Tribune Forum Exchange Students

For many years, LREI participated in the Herald Tribune Forum, which brought students to the U.S. from all over the world for a period of twelve weeks. LREI hosted students from many countries, including Kimiko Fujii from Japan, and Wentworth..Read More

1955
W.E.B. Dubois Visits

W.E.B. Dubois Visits

Dr. W.E.B. Dubois, well-known scholar, philosopher and writer, spoke to the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades on February 14. His topic was freedom of opinion in the United States. In a short analysis of the fight for freedom of opinion..Read More

1955
A Lasting Imprint

A Lasting Imprint

Students attend a campaign assembly in the 1950s. A focus on politics not only will help our students learn about history, geography, math, science, and language arts, but also will allow them to fashion their own political lives. It will..Read More

1955
Natural Inquisitiveness

Natural Inquisitiveness

Progressive education works with a child’s natural inquisitiveness and desire to do, to experiment and to be involved. Progressive education asks students to truly understand a topic and to demonstrate and to defend their understanding. It asks them to think..Read More

1955

Pearl Primus Visits LRSH

Pearl Primus, one of America’s greatest interpretive dancers and PhD candidate in Anthropology at Columbia University, performs at LRSH. “There is music everywhere,” she said. “Music is in the wind whistling by my ears. I hear it in the quiet..Read More

1957
EI Students Attend Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom

EI Students Attend Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom

The date was May 17, 1957. Three years ago on that date the Supreme Court of the land added a new verse to freedom’s song. “Desegregate and state to integrate” chorused the nine men in black. And now three years..Read More

1957
Getting Along

Getting Along

EI students on a field trip in 1957. Just as our little children often say at home, “We don’t learn anything, we just have fun,” we would like our older children to feel “We don’t learn about democracy, we just..Read More

1957
10s Play About Integration

10s Play About Integration

A play by the 10s about integration was performed at an assembly in 1957, and then later at the high school. Teacher Mimi Levy transcribed phrases from class discussions of integration and turned their words into the script, which was..Read More

1957
Arthur Miller (P’62, ’65) Attends EI Performance of THE CRUCIBLE

Arthur Miller (P’62, ’65) Attends EI Performance of THE CRUCIBLE

EI parent Arthur Miller, author of The Crucible, attends an EI production of his play said the following about the performance:    

1957
We Need Our Park

We Need Our Park

LRSH students make an appeal to Mayor Robert F. Wagner, explaining why building a highway through Washington Square Park would be detrimental to the community.

1958

Jackie Robinson Visits EI on Behalf of NAACP

In 1958, Jackie Robinson, ambassador of the NAACP, came to LREI with Herbert Wright, Youth Leader of the NAACP, to accept a check from EI students, funds raised to support their efforts in the fight for racial justice and to..Read More

1958
NAACP Youth Secretary Visits EI

NAACP Youth Secretary Visits EI

Herbert Wright, NAACP Youth Secretary, speaks to the EI student council

1958
Dwight Eisenhower congratulates LRSH on 25th Anniversary

Dwight Eisenhower congratulates LRSH on 25th Anniversary

Read The New York Times article from March 1, 1958 here.

1958
EI Students Attend Youth March for Integrated Schools

EI Students Attend Youth March for Integrated Schools

On Saturday, October 25, 1958, EI students traveled to Washington D.C. to attend the Youth March for Integrated Schools led by A. Philip Randolph, Jackie Robinson, Coretta Scott King, Harry Belafonte, Bayard Rustin.

1958
Prime Minister Nehru Writes to Students at LRSH

Prime Minister Nehru Writes to Students at LRSH

In 1958, LRSH students sent Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India letters and drawings wishing him a happy birthday. In response, he wrote: I am glad to know that you have been learning about India in your class. India is..Read More

1958
Operation Pennsylvania

Operation Pennsylvania

EI students take a week-long trip to Pennsylvania to visit Amish farms, a steel plant, and a coal mine, among other stops, to learn about the work and lives of others. Read the trip objectives and itinerary here.

1959
Lorraine Hansberry Visits Book Week

Lorraine Hansberry Visits Book Week

On November 5, 1959, Lorraine Hansberry visited students to talk about her writing, including the play A Raisin in the Sun, as part of Book Week. LREI prides itself on shrinking the distance between the schoolhouse and the “real world.”..Read More

1959
Village NAACP Organized

Village NAACP Organized

LREI Director Dr. Randolph Smith, playwright Lorraine Hansberry, and Reverend Howard Moody of Judson Memorial Church, among other prominent Village leaders, are consulted in the formation of the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chapter of the NAACP.

1960
Student UNICEF Drive

Student UNICEF Drive

LRSH students organize an annual drive to raise funds for UNICEF.

1960
EI Students Picket Woolworth’s

EI Students Picket Woolworth’s

Students from EI picket Woolworths at 39th Street and Fifth Avenue as part of a Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) drive.

1960
Pete Seeger Sings at EI Fundraiser

Pete Seeger Sings at EI Fundraiser

On February 11, 1960, Pete Seeger performed at the PAC to support the student drive for the American Friends Service Committee.

1960
Sensory Experiences

Sensory Experiences

Students sketch Our Lady of Pompeii Church on Carmine Street from Father Demo Square in 1960. Whoever took this photo likely recognized the beauty of being given time to explore materials and to engage in the sensory experiences that are..Read More

1961
Intercultural Committee Enrollment Drive

Intercultural Committee Enrollment Drive

Responding to the call of the Education and Intercultural Committees, forty parents and teachers volunteered to work for increased intercultural registration in both schools. Beginning with countless telephone calls, their efforts progressed to visits with community leaders and prospective parents...Read More

1962

School Drive for Migrant Children

Students watched one of the most celebrated documentaries of all time, 1960’s “Harvest of Shame,” in which Edward R. Murrow exposed the plight of America’s farm workers. Students collected $486.00 to pay the expenses of representatives traveling through migrant areas,..Read More

1963

March on Washington

EI students travel to Washington D.C. to attend the March on Washington D.C. on Wednesday, August 28, 1963, where Dr. Martin Luther king Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in which he called for an end to racism.”..Read More

1963
Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)

Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)

EI students volunteer at the CORE national office and fundraise. Elisabeth Irwin is the first and only high school in the Metropolitan Area to have endorsed the program of the Congress of Racial Equality with such dedication and sincerity… It..Read More

1964
Alvin Ailey and Others Perform to Benefit Scholarship Program

Alvin Ailey and Others Perform to Benefit Scholarship Program

The LRSH annual “midnight show” features Jack Gilford, Alvin Ailey and others. This one begins not at midnight like previous shows, but at 8:30 pm.

1964
Students Visit Pennsylvania Coal Mines

Students Visit Pennsylvania Coal Mines

As part of our social studies course, the 11th grade took a 6 day trip to Pennsylvania. The three main objectives of the trip were to study coal mining conditions in the mining towns themselves and to visit farms of..Read More

1964

EI Students Participate in World’s Fair Demonstrations

Thirty EI students joined the demonstration on opening day of the 1964 World’s Fair. The students picketed the Louisiana Pavilion led by James Farmer and Bayard Rustin. Four students were arrested including Lisa Fein (Gilford), Liz Leicester, and Tom Hurwitz,..Read More

1964
Freedom Summer SNCC Voter Drive

Freedom Summer SNCC Voter Drive

Peter Cummings, who graduated from EI in 1962, was one of the twenty-five freedom workers stationed in Holly Springs, Mississippi over the summer to work on the 1964 campaign, led by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), to register large numbers..Read More

1965
Democracy in Children’s Own Terms

Democracy in Children’s Own Terms

Students negotiate their play during recess on the roof in the 1960s. For the teacher whose eyes are open to the many human situations arising in group life, there is ample opportunity to discover and discuss problems of democracy in..Read More

1965
A Real Life Plan

A Real Life Plan

Students study and play together in the 1960s. Happiness comes from many sources but primarily, we believe, from an ability to make good social relationships and to find adequate expression for normal creative impulses. —Elisabeth Irwin: from A Real Life..Read More

1966
Watts Riots

Watts Riots

EI student Robert Rosen spends four days in Los Angeles as a participant on a study of the Watts Riots, co-sponsored by New York University and the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company. The story of Los Angeles and the Watts community is..Read More

1968
Randolph Smith Retires

Randolph Smith Retires

Dr. Randolph Smith retires after 26 years as Director. Coit Johnson becomes the new Director of the Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School.

1970
Progressive Education in Action

Progressive Education in Action

Joe’s story about his days at LREI reflect a progressive education in action. Listen here.

1970
LREI’s First Affinity Group

LREI’s First Affinity Group

The Organization of Afro-American Students (OAAS) forms in 1970, becoming LREI’s first affinity group. The stated purposes of the OAAS were: To promote unity among the Black students in the school To promote awareness of the Black Revolution To promote..Read More

1972
Middle School Opens, Is Dedicated to Randolph Smith

Middle School Opens, Is Dedicated to Randolph Smith

The Dr. Randolph B. Smith Middle School is established in the buildings at 200/202 Bleecker Street. Until then, grades 5-8 were part of the high school in the 40 Charlton Street building.

1975

Coit Johnson Resigns

Coit Johnson  resigns after seven years as director. Continuity of LREI’s strong leadership, shared vision, principles of good progressive practice and financial stability, from Elisabeth Irwin to Randolph Smith to Coit Johnson, provided a sturdy foundation for the steady growth..Read More

1980

EIHS Saved

LREI students rally to stop their beloved school from closing, mostly due to financial hardship. The school was ultimately saved by its community and remained open.

1983

LREI Celebrates 50 Years

  LREI celebrates 50 years of being an independent school. Founded in 1921, LREI was a public school until the NYC Board of Education discontinued its funding. The LREI community raised funds to continue the school as an independent school..Read More

1985
Parent-Created Big Books

Parent-Created Big Books

Students read together from a parent-created big book in the 1980s. Whenever parents offer their time and talents to students, a message is embedded within. The message is: you are important, your education can be fun and exciting, we believe..Read More

1985
The Democratic Classroom

The Democratic Classroom

Cleo Banks with her students in the 1980s. It is wrong to think that in a democratic class, the teacher abdicates and contents himself with counting votes. He must always remain the leader and the guide. The chil­dren must be..Read More

1986
LREI Marches in the GMHC AIDS Walk

LREI Marches in the GMHC AIDS Walk

LREI Marches in the annual GMHC AIDS Walk. GMHC fights to end the AIDS epidemic and uplift the lives of all affected.

1988

LREI Students Perform at Carnegie Hall with Peter, Paul and Mary (’55)

LREI students sing “Light One Candle” with Peter, Paul, and Mary at their holiday concert at Carnegie Hall in December 1988. Susan Glass led the chorus, then and now. Pay close attention at 1:08 to see Middle School Principal Ana..Read More

1988
LREI Intramural Basketball

LREI Intramural Basketball

LREI launches its all-inclusive intramural basketball program for fifth and sixth graders. Through participation on athletic teams students develop their physical skills and the ability to work together toward a common purpose; they also learn to represent the school within..Read More

1989
“Hand in Hand” Benefit Concert

“Hand in Hand” Benefit Concert

Hand in Hand: A benefit concert at NYU EIsner Lubin Hall for Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School featuring Peter, Paul, and Mary (’55), John Hammond, Eric Weissberg, The Robert DeCormier Singers, and other special guests.

1989
An evening with LREI Parents Willem Dafoe (P’00), Harvey Keitel (P’97), and Richard Brown (P’94)

An evening with LREI Parents Willem Dafoe (P’00), Harvey Keitel (P’97), and Richard Brown (P’94)

On a snowy Friday, January 6th, 1989, an enthusiastic audience of students, parents, and friends of the school enjoyed and evening with LREI parents Willem Dafoe and Harvey Keitel in a discussion moderated by noted film teacher and theorist Richard..Read More

1990
Willam Kunstler (P’94/P’96) Speaks at MLK Assembly

Willam Kunstler (P’94/P’96) Speaks at MLK Assembly

Lawyer, civil rights activist, and LREI parent William Kunstler spoke to students at the annual Martin Luther King Day assembly.

1991
EIHS Saved

EIHS Saved

A second attempt to close the high school is rejected by the students, faculty, parents, and alumni. The Fund for the High School is established to raise funds earmarked specifically for the upper division.

1994
New Rooftop Playground

New Rooftop Playground

Parents and faculty work together to construct new rooftop playground

1996
Founder’s Day

Founder’s Day

The first annual Founder’s Day, established by Director Andrew Maclaren, pays tribute to Elisabeth Irwin.

1997
LREI Lesbian Gay Straight Alliance (LGSA)

LREI Lesbian Gay Straight Alliance (LGSA)

Lower School Principal Elaine Winter and parent Alice Krauss, along with other parents, found the LREI Lesbian Gay Straight Alliance (LGSA).

1997

Visibility/Love Makes a Family

Beginning in 1997, LREI hosted an annual traveling photography exhibition entitled “Love Makes A Family” — focused on the families gay and lesbian couples create. In 2010, the LREI community decided to curate its own exhibit, “Visibility: Our LGBTQ+ Community..Read More

1997
LREI Celebrates 75th Anniversary

LREI Celebrates 75th Anniversary

Click here to see the LREI 75th Anniversary booklet that includes photographs and student recollections of the school.

1998

First Founder’s Day Play

Every year, the LREI founder’s day play recounts how the parents of LREI met at an ice cream parlor and resolved to continue LREI as an independent school after the NYC Board of Education discontinued its funding as a public..Read More

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