Agathe Margarethe Meyer Schurz

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Agathe Margarethe Meyer Schurz (b August 17, 1833 in Hamburg, Germany; d March 15, 1876, New York) married Carl Schurz in 1852 in London. After moving to New York in 1871 the Schurz family became lifelong friends of William Steinway and his family. When Margarethe died in 1876, William wrote, “I feel unspeakably sad and downhearted with the conviction that noble women like Mrs. Schurz must die.” (Diary, 1876-03-18)

Margarethe Meyer Schurz was the youngest of 11 children. She was named after her mother who had died after her birth. Margarethe studied the Friedrich Froebel Kindergarten education method in Hamburg, Germany. (1) While visiting her sister Bertha Meyer-Ronge in London, who had established a Kindergarten there (1), she met Carl Schurz. They were married on July 6, 1852, immediately left for America and settled in Philadelphia for three years before moving to Watertown, Wisconsin. In 1856 Margarethe opened the first American Kindergarten based on the Fröbel teachings there for her daughters Agathe and Marianne, cousins and neighbors. The education included, play, songs, geometric shapes, dancing and education in nature and plants.(3) At the time over 60% of the Wisconsin population spoke German. By 1860 the “German idea” of a Kindergarten was continued for English speaking children by Elizabeth Palmer-Peabody in Boston. (3)

Margarethe suffered from a lung ailment and was often sick. She spent much of her time with her daughters in Germany. In 1861 she stayed in Hamburg with the children while Carl was Ambassador to Spain. (4) In December of 1863 she gave birth to Emma Savannah, named to commemorate the capture of the Georgia city ten days before. (4) When Emma died in the spring of 1867, Carl Schurz sent Margarethe and the daughters once more to Germany to improve her health. He did not join them until Christmas that year. (4) Upon the death of Margarethe ten days after the birth of her son Herbert in 1876, Carl Schurz wrote to F. W. Bird, “For grief like this there is no real consolation.”(4) Her funeral was attended by Oswald Ottendorfer and William Steinway and many members of the Liederkranz who sang at the service. She is buried at Green-Wood Cemetery. (2)



1. "Frauen in der Geschichte des Kindergartens: Margarethe Schurz“,  Berger, Manfred, Online Handbook, published by Martin R. Textor,

2.  “Funeral of Mrs. Schurz,” The New York Times, March 19, 1876, p. 12.

3.  „Kindergarten“, Allen, Ann Taylor

4.  Trefousse, Hans L., Carl Schurz – A Biography. New York: Fordham University Press, 1998, pp 107, 147, 163, 227.