Day nurseries were an early Progressive Era (1890s-1920s) national movement to offset the impacts that modern urban and industrial growth were having on women and children. Working-class mothers needed care for their children. Middle- and upper-class women wanted to aid their counterparts, by providing combined care and education to those children. They created day nurseries, which were thus “of-by-for women.”
Colorado Springs had a special population of needy working-class mothers. The town was a health mecca for “consumptives.” There were enough mothers with tuberculosis to create a need for a special children’s place. The solution would be a day nursery, which had its own infirmary. It offered medical care for the children at a daily fee of ten cents for the first child from a family and five cents for each other child.
In 1897, a group of philanthropic women founded the Colorado Springs Day Nursery Association. One of the founders was New Englander Alice Cogswell Bemis, who had come to Colorado Springs partly for respiratory health. Not only did she endow the day nursery, but also Colorado College (Bemis Hall and the Women’s Educational Society) as well as the Young Women’s Christian Association.
In 1923, Cogswell’s daughter, noted philanthropist Alice Bemis Taylor, funded the construction of the Colorado Springs Day Nursery’s historic building (104 East Rio Grande), dedicated “to all mothers and all children,” in memory of her mother, and to have a place for the Association. Each worker who helped build the building received a $20 gold piece on that day. The building, now on the National Register of Historic Places, has fanciful Tudor architecture, stained glass windows, and specially painted murals, by Colorado Springs native and renowned western artist Allen Tupper True, that tell the stories of many Mother Goose rhymes.
From the 1930s through the 1950s, the CS Day Nursery (renamed Child Nursery Centers) offered care and temporary quarters for hundreds of needy children. From 1973 to the early 2000s, it served the modern needs of children along with many other sister sites. In 2010, the organization’s name became Early Connections Learning Centers, which still operates its many children’s programs from the CS Day Nursery building.
Generously Submitted by Katherine Scott Sturdevant, Professor of History, PPCC