ISSUE BRIEF – PTA Legislative Legacy

A Proud History and Legacy of Advocacy

Excerpted from the Minnesota PTA website


It was 1895 when Alice McLellan Birney asked herself…


“How can the mothers be educated and the nation made to recognize the supreme importance of the child?”


In 1895, Alice McLellan Birney expressed a deep concern for the miserable condition of children and families. Because she needed more than the ever present enthusiastic support of her family, she enlisted the help of Phoebe Apperson Hearst. Phoebe Hearst, who had become a school teacher at age 16 and later married into the affluent Hearst family, became the perfect partner for Alice Birney and her concerns for the plight of children.Together they shared a vision that would “create an unprecedented movement” of dedication and determination to create a better place for countless children.



On February 17, 1897, in Washington D.C., Alice Birney and her dedicated, friend Phoebe AppersonHearst, realized their dream. It was the beginning of the National Congress of Mothers. This awakening of concerns for the welfare of children was being followed closely by Selena Sloan Butler, an elementary school teacher in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1911, with the assistance of the National Congress of Mothers and Parent-Teachers Association, Selena Butler formed the first Colored Parent-Teacher organization at the Yonge Street Elementary school in Atlanta.Through her relentless hard work, the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers was formed in 1926.Selena Butler was elected the first National President. The National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers did not unite with the National PTA until 1970 because of individual state segregation laws.


In 1958 the National PTA formally authorized the use of PTSA to encourage the participation of students as “full and equal members of their PTA or PTSA”, therefore affirming the value of student voices in decisions “affecting their education, health, and welfare”.


Today, as throughout our history, we welcome many new citizens of to our communities.PTA continues to value the rich culture children and families bring to our school communities. Although we may have diverse backgrounds, we share similar concerns for the education, health and welfare of our children. PTA recognizes that families may need special helps to assimilate into our school communities. Therefore, PTA will continue to advocate for every child with one voice.


“The PTA’s first century serves as a prologue to the challenges of the future. The next ten decades will be no less critical. The National PTA will be no less vigilant.”


As we continue the work of the dedicated individuals that began this honorable movement, many parallels in the efforts of parents in the 1800’s and the parent efforts of today become apparent. We still continue to advocate for children and families in many of the same areas of concern.

  • Appropriate class size

― This was an immediate concern of the National Congress.

  • Promoting the teaching of the arts

― In 1969 the National Reflections Arts Program was started by Mary Lou Anderson to showcase the importance of arts in education.

  • Increased funding for public education

― In 1905 the National Congress passed a landmark resolution calling for federal assistance for the education of children in kindergarten classes and elementary schools.


Links to full detials below:

Excerpts from the Minnesota PTA website @

History and Legacy from the National PTA website @


Publication of the Kansas PTA Advocacy Team (2011).

Debbie Lawson

Nancy Niles Lusk

Mary Sinclair, PhD