Virginia PTA History

Virginia PTA — Over 100 Years Of Service

View 100 Years Celebration Video 

We would like to thank the Virginia Beach Council of PTAs for sharing their history records with us.

The organization known as the National PTA was founded February 17, 1897 as the National Congress of Mothers in Washington, D.C. Alice McLellan Birney and Phoebe Apperson Hearst are co-founders.

Virginia Joins the National PTA ~ The Virginia Congress of Parents and Teachers (Virginia PTA) originated in part from the Cooperative Education Association, established in 1904 and became a state association in the National Congress of Parents and Teachers (National PTA) on April 21, 1921. Virginia is one of 54 Congresses of the National PTA.

One for ALL ~ On June 11, 1970, the National PTA and the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers united to serve children with equal concern for all. Today, Selena Sloan Butler, founder of the NCCPT.

PTA Today ~ Today’s PTA member is you – mother, father, grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister or brother. You are the next door neighbor, community professionals, and the members of the education community. You don’t necessarily have children in school, but you know that children are 100% of the future so you invest in your future and theirs, by joining the PTA. Many of you continue your investment as active volunteers serving in the school, on committees and as officers. Your membership commitment is why Virginia PTA continues to be one of the largest congresses in the National PTA.

Virginia PTA History

Our roots were formed in the Cooperative Education Association which began in 1904 by a group of people interested in public education. The Virginia branch of the National Congress of Mothers was formed in 1921 in the Star City, Roanoke. In 1933 the Cooperative Education Association merged with the Virginia Branch of the National Congress of Mothers. From 1937 until 1952 the General Assembly subsidized the budget of the Virginia PTA. In 1968 another merge took place with the Virginia Federation joining the Virginia Congress of Parents and Teachers. The membership in 1933 was 5,000 and today our membership exceeds 335,000.

Historical Presentation Marking 100 Years of Child Advocacy in Virginia – Presented at 2004 Annual Convention – Portsmouth

The history of National PTA is well documented. We all have heard the wonderful story of our beginnings on February 17, 1897 and the birth of the largest volunteer organization working solely on behalf of children.

Virginia PTA history was first published in the January 1954 Bulletin in an article by then PTA Historian, Mrs. Hunter Brown. From this article titled “Fifty Years in Retrospect”, we find our roots. The recorded history of parental and community involvement in the education of our children began in 1904. Paraphrasing this article it states, “The great cyclone of reform in state affairs which had been brewing for a long time burst in 1900, when the citizens of Virginia voted to call a State Constitutional Convention. It met in Richmond June 12, 1901. Almost a year later, on June 6, 1902, the new constitution was adopted and it included a provision for a modern Department of Public Instruction, under the direction of a State Superintendent; with aid from state funds for schools, under certain conditions.”

Virginia’s Governor at the time was A.J. Montague who was well aware of Virginia’s great educational needs. With his encouragement, the Cooperative Education Association of Virginia was organized in 1904 by an outstanding group of citizens of the Commonwealth to meet a definite and great need for better schools, health, civic and social conditions. Under the leadership of the first elected president, Dr. S.C. Mitchell, a professor at the University of Richmond, the Cooperative Education Association developed an eight-point program, which was:

  • A nine-month school for every child.
  • A high school within reasonable distance of every child.
  • Well-trained teachers for all public schools.
  • Efficient supervision of schools.
  • The introduction of agricultural and industrial training into the schools.
  • The promotion of libraries and correlation of public libraries and public schools.
  • Schools for the defective and dependent classes.
  • The organization of a Community League in every county.

Armed with this program, the historic “May Campaign” began in 1905 when the Governor and 100 of the “ablest speakers of the state delivered 800 addresses in 94 counties”. The direct result of the campaign was the organization of local school associations—Community Leagues, Civic Leagues, School Leagues—called by various names but organized by the citizens to improve the educational, health, civic, social, home, highway and farming conditions.

Soon this organization of citizens who were working on every phase of school and community improvement became aware of a national movement, the National PTA, to encourage parental and community involvement. Said Dr. E.L. Fox, then 8th president of the Cooperative Education Association, “this movement, national in origin, was in large measure the result of a growing interest in child psychology, a growing awareness of parents to the elusive effects of change upon the home, the family, and the problems of child care. The result is a demand for an organization for the promotion of parent education, child study groups, parent-teacher relations, and a quickened sense of the responsibility of the present adult generation to the rising generations.”

National PTA’s Child Welfare Magazine, in March 1921 stated: “Roanoke, Virginia has been laying its plans for over a year to complete the formation of a state organization of National Congress of Mothers and Parent-Teacher Associations. In this, Mrs. Robert Hudson of Richmond, state organizer, has given hearty cooperation. Prominent educators in the state are anxious that the movement be pushed now. Mrs. Harry Semones, President Central Council Parent-Teacher Associations of Roanoke City, Salem, Vinton and Washington Heights, is leading the movement in Roanoke and Mrs. Hudson in Richmond.” Child Welfare Magazine later reported in their June-July 1921 issue that “Virginia has joined the ranks of the National Congress of Mothers and Parent-Teacher Associations with a charter membership of 5,000 parents and teachers.” Thus, the Virginia Branch of the National Congress of Mothers and Parent-Teacher Associations was organized in Roanoke on April 2, 1921 and chartered by our National association. Mrs. Harry Semones of Roanoke was elected our first president. On November 28, 1933 the Virginia Branch of the National Congress of Mothers and Parent-Teacher Associations merged at a joint convention held with the Cooperative Education Association to become what we know today as the Virginia Congress of Parents and Teachers, the Virginia PTA.

We plan to very soon update our document, “Milestones. A History of the Virginia PTA” and to also form a new committee to develop an updated formal history of the Virginia PTA which we hope will be sent to each local unit in our Congress. We encourage each unit, council and district to preserve their history and to record and share the resulting document with their memberships. Go back to when you were each chartered and record the traditions established by your association. You will find it very interesting, rewarding and a wonderful tool to inform your school community of all you have accomplished over the years.

History shows that prior to 1921, PTAs existed in Virginia, chartered directly by National PTA. While National PTA archives were not available to us to check the organizational dates of individual PTA units chartered prior to 1921 due to the upcoming move of our National PTA headquarters, the historical records of the Virginia Beach Council of PTAs shows that Bayside Elementary School PTA was chartered by National PTA in 1919. The roots of the Bayside Elementary School PTA were a Home-School League, organized in 1914. And like the parents and teachers at Bayside Elementary, we know that parents and teachers all over Virginia—from Richmond to Roanoke to Fairfax to Virginia Beach were working together out of their concern for the health, education and welfare of children.

Council history shows the concerns of parents and teachers in Princess Anne County (now the city of Virginia Beach) during the early 1900’s mirrored the concerns of the National Congress of Mothers (the National PTA). Those concerns were:

Juvenile justice issues and the need for child labor laws.Access to hot lunches during the school day. The need for fathers to become more involved in their children’s lives including their education.Children’s health issues

Virginia Beach Council records also indicate that a group of parents organized at Cooke Elementary School in 1917 and called themselves “The Home and Civic League” and were chartered as a PTA in 1922. This group established the first hot lunch program in their school. “A number of interested mothers, realizing the necessity of children having nourishing and warm lunches during the cold winter days, began serving soups and sandwiches. The ladies visited the grocery stores begging a bone and the ingredients for soup. Mothers would take turns making the soup. Just before noon, a seventh grade boy would leave and go to the designated mother’s home. The soup and sandwiches would be loaded on a toy wagon and the boy would pull the wagon back to school with the mother walking alongside, steadying the pot.” We know these concerns and these activities were happening all over our Commonwealth. We know that many of these early organized parent and teacher groups, calling themselves by many different names, eventually made the decision to join National PTA and Virginia PTA efforts to make the lives of all children better.

In closing, we would like to share with you the paragraph that closed the Virginia Beach Council History presentation. It was written by Dolores Delaney, Virginia Beach Council president from 1981 to 1983 and Virginia PTA State President, 1987 to 1989. She wrote, “If the past could speak to the present, it would remind us all that each of us in PTA is the history. The names and deeds may fade from our collective memory, but the constant efforts of thousands of dedicated PTA members, working in local units through the years to improve the lives of children in Virginia is written boldly in a higher place. It says simply, “these were people who cared.”

The 2004 Convention Management Committee would like to thank Sue Glasco for her research of Virginia PTA records and our other past presidents as well for their input toward our future update of “Milestones: A History of the Virginia PTA.”

Past Presidents Record

Cooperative Education Association

1905-1910    Dr. S.C. Mitchell
1910-1924    Mrs. Mary Cooke Branch Munford


Virginia Congress of Mothers
Virginia Congress of Parents and Teachers

1921-1928     Mrs. Harry Semones
1928-1929     Mrs. W. H. Dunn
1929-1930     Mrs. Arthur Rowbotham
1930-1932     Mrs. D. W. Persinger
1932-1933     Mrs. S. C. Cox
1933-1937     Dr. W.T. Sanger
1937-1939     Mrs. S. C. Cox
1939-1943     Dr. F. L. Fox
1943-1946     Mrs. Berry Willis
1946-1949     Dr. George Zehmer
1949-1952     Mrs. Hunter Barrow
1952-1955     Dr. Robert Nelson
1955-1958     Mrs. W. W. Kavanaugh
1958-1961     Dr. Edgar Johnson
1961-1963     Mrs. Harold Gerry
1963-1965     Dr. Charles Caldwell
1965-1967     Mrs. Charles Duncan
1967-1969     Mr. Fred Entler
1969-1971     Mrs. W.H. Crockford
1971-1973     Dr. Spencer Smith, Jr.
1973-1975     Mr. Robert Shaver
1975-1977     Mr. George Thompson
1977-1979     Mrs. Paul Coussens
1979-1981     Mrs. Lofton Alley
1981-1983     Mr. George Meek
1983-1985     Mrs. Leonard Lineberry
1985-1987     Mrs. Len Belter
1987-1989     Mrs. Robert Delaney
1989-1991     Mr. Richard D. Martin
1991-1993     Mrs. Robert W. Taylor
1993-1995     Mr. David W. Goodrich
1995-1997     Mrs. Mary B. Gormley
1997-1999     Mrs. Lois L. Cumashot
1999-2001     Mrs. Sue R. Glasco
2001-2003     Mrs. Janice M. McKeever
2003-2005     Mrs. Ramona Morrow
2005-2007     Mrs. Dianne Florence
2007-2009     Mrs. Melissa Nehrbass
2009-2011     Mrs. Debra Abadie
2011-2013     Mrs. Anne Carson
2013-2015     Mrs. Brenda L. Sheridan
2015-2017     Mrs. Jane S. Brooks
2017-2019     Ms. Sarah R. Gross
2019-2021     Ms. Donna Colombo
2021-2023     Ms. Pamela B. Croom