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Helen Howard Wilson collection of workbooks for Froebel's System of Gifts


Held at: University of Delaware Library Special Collections [Contact Us]181 South College Avenue, Newark, DE 19717-5267

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Delaware Library Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

The German Freidrich Froebel (1782 - 1852), instructor and educational philosopher, invented the first systematized approach to teaching young children; he named it "Kindergarten." His system built activities upon children's play and used play objects, or "gifts" such as blocks, sticks, paper, pencils, and clay, in lessons for children. Teachers were introduced to about twenty gifts in a "System of Gifts and Occupations," many of which were craft-like "fancy work": cutting, folding, or weaving paper. In the mid- and late-nineteenth century, as Froebel's ideas exploded in popularity in Germany, then expanded across Europe, North America and Japan, many women trained to become kindergarten teachers.

Though biographical context about Helen Howard Wilson is unavailable for these work books, her personal name plates in each volume lead one to conjecture that she at least trained in the method, and may have taught with it.

Norman Brosterman, Inventing Kindergarten(New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1997).Additional biographical and historical information derived from the collection.

The Helen Howard Wilson work book collection represents samples of work completed utilizing Freidrich Froebel's "System of Gifts and Occupation" for early education. The four workbooks in this collection include "Sewing," the twelfth gift, with examples of colored thread stitched on paper; "Cutting," the thirteenth gift, with examples of cut paper work including abstract patterns, silhouettes, and paper vignettes; "Weaving," the fourteenth gift, with examples of paper weaving in abstract and concrete forms; and "Folding," the eighteenth gift, with samples of origami and paper folding.

Box 1: Shelved in SPEC MSS mss (upright mss)

Purchase, April 2005

Processed by Colleen E. Lemke, May 2005. Encoded by Jaime Margalotti, October 2019.

University of Delaware Library Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
Finding Aid Date
2019 October 10
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library,

Collection Inventory

"Sewing" [12th gift].
Box 1 Volume 1
Scope and Contents

Grey cloth cover with gold lettering; 14 accordion-fold card stock leaves with 55 examples of colored thread stitching

"Cutting" [13th gift].
Box 1 Volume 2
Scope and Contents

Grey cloth cover with gold lettering; 22 accordion-fold leaves with 22 examples of cut abstract shapes, silhouettes, and vignettes

"Weaving" [14th gift].
Box 1 Volume 3
Scope and Contents

Grey cloth cover with gold lettering; 22 accordion-fold leaves with with 22 examples of colored paper strips woven in various patterns, and four additional patterns laid in

"Folding" [18th gift].
Box 1 Volume 4
Scope and Contents

Grey cloth cover with gold lettering; 6 accordion-fold leaves with 23 folded abstract patterns and origami shapes

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