Samuel Ready School opened on November 1, 1887, with seven girls. The original location was a roomy building on a 16-acre estate called Belmont, later to become the northeast corner of North Avenue and Harford Road. The first principal, Helen J. Rowe, largely defined the school as the effective combination of a school and a home. In a groundbreaking effort, she gave great weight to both cultural interests and professional career guidance. She guided the school from its founding until her death in 1919.
From 1921 until 1949, Mary E. Krekel served as school head, a period that saw significant change and expansion for the school. In 1937, the School sold the original location and moved to a new building on the City-County boundary on Baltimore National Pike. Subsequent heads of school were Evangeline Lewis (1949-1963); Constance P. Walters (1963-1974); and Jackson E. Heffner (1974-1977).
As operating costs increased and enrollment declined, an annual operating budget deficit was reducing the endowment principal. The Board of Trustees decided to close the school in June 1977 and to become a scholarship organization in order to preserve effectively the intent of the endowment. Thus, though the history of Samuel Ready School ended in June 1977, the quiet philanthropy of Samuel Ready and the traditions of the school that bore his name continue in another context.
History of the Samuel Ready School
In 1864 a charter was drawn up and submitted to the Maryland State legislature for "a female orphan asylum." As is cited in the Maryland Historical Magazine (Feb. 2000), Samuel Ready strove to establish a school that would act, literally, in locos parentis. While young boys were able to find work opportunities, girls found wage employment scarce during that era. Ready was also drawn by the challenges to homeless girls he saw searching for food scraps in the dockyards of Baltimore and worried about their suffering as well as the dangers they could experience.
Years after Ready's death, Col. William Allan, principal of McDonogh School for orphan boys was consulted for advice as to how to structure the new school. He suggested that the school be established for girls "of good character, of sound body and mind, and of fair capacity" and that "the course of instruction, as important as it is, is less so perhaps than the discipline and government of the household".
As the origin of the school developed, Helen Rowe, the first principal and the trustees interpreted the terms of Ready's bequest to reflect their own experiences and instincts. Combining this with William Allan's suggestions, the school was opened to include a combination of "classical and industrial curricula" and thus was considered a Progressive Era school. For practical purposes, all the girls learned sewing skills as the "needle trades" provided a wide range of employment opportunities ensuring that a Ready girls could at least obtain working class wages.
However, Rowe integrated into the curriculum the best classical training she could which was considered a radical approach to girls education in this era. While the girls were taught domestic science, they were availed of trips to sites for educational purposes, to museums and historical areas including a train ride to Washington, D.C. Written accounts of these trips were utilized to give the students an opportunity to practice their skills of observation and to connect their experiences with what they learned in the classroom.
The Ready girls were encouraged to be a part of the women's social reform movement of the era and were provided with education that combined both classical subjects and industrial training but also included the world view of the times that was of social reform. While today's Ready scholars experience does not include "industrial training" of the early days of the school, the concepts of classical education and preparation for future endeavors are considered paramount. This has been demonstrated by the successful outcomes provided by the advantages offered by the Ready scholarships before and since the closing of the school. The generosity of former students, their families, friends and others who believe in the education of women are making possible the continuation of education and a brighter, successful future for young women of limited means. Thus the legacy of Samuel Ready continues as he wished.