Founder's DayFounder's Day

February 4, 2021

In February, we held a virtual celebration of the School's visionary founder, Pauline Agassiz Shaw. We shared the history, stories, and images of 140 years at America's first trade school, while celebrating the individual stories of our community of makers, builders, and craftspeople.

Tune in to the conversation across social media and in live-streamed events in the weeks ahead. You can still participate directly by sharing your own earliest memories (and pics!) of your #lifeincraft on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. Just tag @nbssboston and let us know #whycraftmatters to you. Scroll down to view the heartfelt memories shared by some of our alumni.

Learn more about Pauline, the history of NBSS, and all the ways you can join the conversation below.

Founder's Day, Part I: A Short History of Pauline Agassiz Shaw

Learn more about Pauline Agassiz Shaw, the Swiss-born daughter of a Harvard University naturalist and stepdaughter of the founding president of Radcliffe College. Discover how her intellectually rich upbringing, but limited financial means, infused within her a respect for learning, and how she became a social and educational pioneer, championing such efforts as public kindergartens, day nurseries, voting rights, and manual arts training for men, women, and children of all backgrounds.

Part one of a four-part series on the origins of North Bennet Street School.

Founder's Day, Part II: Sloyd & Training The Whole Person

From the beginning, North Bennet Street School was a pioneer in advocating the value of hand skills training to society. The manual arts training movement known in Sweden as Educational Sloyd (slojd means 'craft' or 'manual skill') was brought to this country in large part through the efforts of our founder, Pauline Agassiz Shaw.

Part two of a four-part series on the origins of North Bennet Street School.

Founder's Day, Part III: Growth and Experimentation

With the Sloyd educational philosophy fully integrated into North Bennet Street Industrial School's offerings by the close of the 19th century, Pauline Agassiz Shaw's vision of "an institution for training in industrial occupations persons of all ages" grew quickly. Learn more about the growth of the School's wide array of pre-vocational programs, social clubs, and training for veterans and immigrants from 1900-1940.

Part three of a four-part series on the origins of North Bennet Street School.

Founder's Day, Part IV: A New Era, Rooted in History

The School's experimental tradition continued leading up to WWII and for decades beyond. A range of new NBSIS initiatives served divergent groups—children and adults, men and women, civilians and veterans—each reflecting the changing needs of local residents and the broader society.

Part four of a four-part series on the origins of North Bennet Street School.

Watch: Craft Origins

On Thursday, January 28, 2021, we explored the beginnings of a #lifeincraft with six talented craftspeople from a variety of backgrounds.

It was an especially inspiring conversation for many who attended, as they fondly recalled their own creative beginnings. Watch the full event above, featuring these speakers:

  • Andrew Haines, Artist-Painter and frame conservator
  • Kristen Odle, NBSS Retail & Exhibit Manager, cellist, and fiber artist
  • Sarah Turner, President of NBSS and practicing artist
  • Barb Baker LK '04, NBSS Department Head of Locksmithing & Security Technology
  • James Mason, Dean of Faculty and Professor of Fashion Design at MassArt
  • Jackie Blombach PC '02, Preservation consultant and former professional dancer

Get Inspired

Born on February 6, 1841, Pauline Agassiz Shaw was a pioneering philanthropist, educator, and social reformer who significantly impacted not only our community, but also the history of Boston and the nation. Her many accomplishments include opening the country's first kindergartens, funding the suffragette movement, and developing settlement houses to help immigrants adjust to their new country. In addition, she founded America's first trade school, whose mission lives on today through our unique training, programs, and community at NBSS.

Questions about Founder's Day? Contact or 617.227.0155 *172.

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