Virginia PTA History

Virginia PTA — Over 100 Years Of Service

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National PTA History

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 (of Georgia) and Phoebe Apperson Hearst (of Missouri) founded the association when women did not have the right to vote and social activism was not popular. However, they believed mothers would support their mission to eliminate threats that endangered children, and in early 1897, they started a nationwide campaign. In 1924, a new name was adopted — National Congress of Parents and Teachers to better reflect the involvement of fathers and teachers. In 1926 in Atlanta Georgia, Mrs. Selena Sloan Butler founded the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers to support African-American families and children in states with segregated schools. Our National founders were women of imagination and courage. They had a simple idea—to improve the lives and future of all children. They understood the power of individual action, worked beyond the accepted barriers of their day, and took action to change the world for all children.

Celebrate Founder’s Day on February 17th

We encourage you to celebrate our 120+ year history of action on behalf of children by commemorating Founder’s Day annually on February 17th. It is a time to reflect and take pride in our achievements, and renew our commitment to be a:

  • Powerful voice for all children;
  • Relevant resource for parents; and
  • Strong advocate for public education.

Virginia PTA History

Virginia PTA’s history starts in 1905 with the establishment of the Cooperative Education Association of Virginia which was part of a wave of educational reform and citizen movement in the southern states to build an adequate school system, and engage citizens in a collaborative effort to improve their communities. In 1902, a new Virginia Constitution was adopted which included a provision for a modern Department of Public Instruction, under the direction of a State Superintendent; with aid from state funds for local schools under certain conditions. In 1904, Governor A.J. Montague called a Conference on Childhood and Youth which resulted in the establishment of the Cooperative Education Association of Virginia to meet the need for better schools, health, civic, and social conditions.

Purpose & Community Organizing

The purposes of the Cooperative Education Association were: To organize and foster community leagues; To make the public school a community center; To encourage a more intelligent citizenship; and To develop cooperative effort for community growth.

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 . In 30 days, 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 50 citizen school associations. These local organizations were known by various names, such as Community League, Civic League, Parent Teacher League, Parent Teacher Association, Mothers’ Club, etc, but all shared the same goal to improve the educational, health, civic, social, home, highway and farming conditions. In addition, the Cooperative Education Association also took up the task of organizing a Student Association or Junior League in each school for the purpose of giving youth an opportunity to practice good citizenship.

Archives from 1921 reflect that the Leagues erected, repaired, and cleaned buildings; purchased playground equipment, musical instruments, libraries, and supplies for teachers and principals; and in some instances when the school term was extended, help was given to secure better teachers by supplementing salaries or even paying the janitor’s salary. The Leagues also worked collaboratively with other education groups to support teacher training, establish and maintain High Schools, make elementary schools more efficient, and to bring about better educational conditions in every respect.

Virginia Joins the National Movement

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 Virginia Congress of Parents and Teachers, “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.”

The Virginia Branch of the National Congress of Mothers was formed in 1921 in the Star City, Roanoke.  Mrs. Hattie Anderson Semones of Cloverdale was elected as the first President on April 2-3, 1921, and served from April 1921 to August 1928. Mrs. Semones also served as President in 1929 when Mrs. Dunn resigned on account of her health, and she served again briefly in 1930 when Mrs. Rowbotham had to resign for family reasons.

History shows that prior to 1921, about twenty 20 PTAs existed in Virginia, individually affiliated with the National Congress of Mothers. Most of the PTA’s that held individual charters with the National Congress of Mothers were in or near urban areas such as Richmond and Roanoke and were loosely grouped together in each locale as “councils” or “federations”.  The one in Richmond was first known as the Federation of Mother’s Clubs and was founded in 1906  by women who had close ties with the Kindergarten movement and who worked collaboratively with the Cooperative Education Association. On March 24, 1911, the Federation of Mother’s Clubs received a state charter from the legislature and in the same year it affiliated with the National Congress of Mothers. Likewise the organization in Roanoke was called the “Central Council Parent Teacher Association of Roanoke City, Salem, Vinton and Washington Heights” but was locally known as “Roanoke Parent Teacher Council”. 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.

Growing Together: Mergers

During this time period, the Cooperative Education Association of Virginia was functioning with very similar objectives as the Virginia Parent Teacher Association. Working in parallel, each centralized its activities around local schools and educational problems with the Leagues providing greater focus on the desirability of parent education and character (early childhood) education, and the Parent Teacher Associations bringing attention to the importance of community as the environment in which the child grows up. In 1931, the Cooperative Education Association approached National Congress of Parents and Teachers to discuss a merger. In 1933 a Joint Committee was appointed by the Cooperative Education Association and Virginia Congress of Parents and Teachers to evaluate and prepare a merger plan. The merger was adopted at a Joint Annual State Meeting of the two associations on November 28, 1933, with Col. Robert T. Barton Jr. presiding. At the time of the merger, the Cooperative Education Association had 716 adult associations with 27,726 members as well as 1,248 junior associations for students with 72,545 members, and received $10,000 in state funding. The Virginia Congress of Parents and Teachers had 163 associations with 7,567 members and received $2,500 in state funding. Under the terms of the merger, the Cooperative Education Association’s Junior Community Leagues, district groupings, and banner (affiliation) requirements were adopted for the new merged association.

In 1933, records show that parents, teachers and volunteers provided daily lunches for children whose parents were unable to provide food due to the financial depression. In 1934 Governor George C. Peery and Superintendent of Public Instruction gave large credit to Virginia PTA for successfully advocating for the Virginia General Assembly to allocate nearly one million dollars in additional education funding for the state’s schools.

Student Cooperative Association (SCA). The first Junior League was organized at Alberne High School, Albermarle County. Mr. T. S. Settle, Principal, stated that the organization was the direct result of the May Campaign of 1905 and the inspiration received during a visit to the school by Dr. S.C. Mitchell and Mrs. B.B. Munford. In 1937, the name of the Junior Community Leagues was changed to the Student Cooperative Association. This change did not affect their scope of work, which continued to expand through the years and worked to enrich educational experiences for boys and girls through the cooperative efforts of faculty and the student body. Throughout the years significant work was dedicated to the support and organization of the SCA through an advisory board of the Cooperative Education Association and Virginia Congress of Parents & Teachers. Virginia is the only state in the nation in which the Congress of Parents and Teachers extensively contributed to a leadership program for all boys and girls in public schools. In 1974, the Student Cooperative Association ended its longtime affiliation with the Virginia Congress of Parents and Teachers, and changed its name to the Virginia Student Council Association.

The Virginia Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers was founded in November 1927, at the Sharon Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia. Mrs. Clara L.K. Bailey, a teacher from Portsmouth Virginia, was elected as the first President and Mrs. S.M. Burrell was elected as the first Executive Secretary. As reported in the Roanoke Council Parent Teacher Founders Day program from February of 1960: “Mrs. Semones founded the first Parent Teacher Association in Virginia on Tuesday April 13, 1920 at Lee Junior High School in Roanoke. She founded 14 PTA local units among white schools in a period of two weeks. During the same year she founded PTA organizations in colored schools. With the assistance of Miss Lucy Addison, the principal of the Harrison School, a local PTA was first organized in colored schools on October 9, 1920.” Mrs Semones continued organizing geographically distributed schools throughout the state, but it was not until  November 1927,  following an organizing call by John M Gandy, that a sufficient number were organized to form the State Congress affiliation with the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers. Joining required 15 associations with a combined membership of at least 250 members and dues of fifteen dollars.During the sixth year of operating a prize of fifteen dollars to be used for the school library was offered to the unit reporting the greatest membership.

The Virginia Congress of Parents and Teachers, during George B Zehmer’s presidency (1947-1950), wrote to the colored congress about forming a liaison committee between the two groups to work on improvement of educational facilities in the state. In September of 1949, George Zehmer remarked in his President message that “Special effort was made to keep in touch with the Virginia Branch of the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers. Our two organizations have many interests in common and the work of the two associations can be strengthened through cooperative effort”, and he additionally shares that he was honored to be elected as an honorary member of the Virginia Branch of the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers.  Documents from 1952 indicate the Mrs. Harriet Barrow invited President Thelma Pegram to the Virginia Congress’s Annual Meeting, and that Ms. Pegram also attended the Board of Managers meeting as an honored guest. In 1952 the Virginia Branch (VCCPT) became incorporated stating that the action was taken to secure protection for the name of the organization in Virginia. Presidents Thelma Pegram and David Woodbury were delegates to the White House Conference on Education.  In 1960, the Virginia Branch (VCCPT) terminated their affiliation with the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers by unanimous vote of 226 voting delegates at the association’s 33rd Annual Meeting. President Ira J. Womack stated the action was taken because “the national association has issued no statement concerning the desegregation of schools” and has not been able to provide other needed services and resources. On Sept. 28, 1961 the VCCPT association’s name was changed to the Virginia Federation of Parents & Teachers. In 1963, Ira J. Wormack, President of the Virginia Federation of Parents & Teachers, served as a member of a joint PTA association committee to study merit pay for teachers. In 1967, the Virginia Federation of Parents and Teachers and the Virginia Congress of Parent and Teachers formed a joint committee to discuss a merger of the two associations. The merger was effective July 1, 1968. The Federation’s Board of Managers held its final meeting on meeting on Sep. 28, 1968 in Richmond. On June 22, 1970, the National PTA and the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers signed a Declaration of Unification and officially became one association.

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 may not necessarily have children in school, but you know that children are the future leaders of our communities, 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 Timeline (Coming Soon)

National PTA History Timeline 

Past Presidents Record

Cooperative Education Association

1905-1908  Dr. Samuel Chiles Mitchell
1908-1910  Mr. John Stewart Bryan
1910-1924  Mrs. Mary-Cooke Branch Munford
1924-1928  Dr. John Preston McConnell
1928-1932  Dr. Joseph Leonard Jarman
1932-1933  Dr. Francis Pendelton Gaines
Nov. 28, 1933 merger w/Virginia PTA

Virginia Congress of Colored Parents & Teachers
Virginia Federation of Parents & Teachers (from 8/28/61)

1927-1933  Mrs. Clara L.K. Bailey
1933-1937  Mrs. Mattie Javins
1937-1945  Mrs. Zula White
1945-1946  Mrs. Janet Crawley
1946-1949  Mr. Henry A. Davis
1949-1950  Mr. David Woodbury
1950-1955  Mrs. Thelma Pegram
1955-1959  Dr. Alfred Kenneth Talbot, Jr.
1959-1963  Mr. Ira J. Wormack, Sr.
1963-1965  Mr.  J. Luvelle Taylor
1965-1968  Dr. Ethelyn R. Strong
July 1, 1968 merger w/ Virginia PTA

Virginia Branch of the National Congress of Mothers and PTA

1921-1928    Mrs. Hattie Anderson Semones
1928-1929    Mrs. Lillian Dunn
1929(acting) Mrs. Hattie Anderson Semones
1929-1930    Mrs. Sally Rowbotham (Arthur)
1930-1932    Mrs. D. W. Persinger
1932-1933    Mrs. S. C. Cox (Ida)

Cooperative Education Association and the Virginia Congress of Mothers and PTA

1933-1937    Dr. William Thomas Sanger
1937-1939    Mrs. S. C. Cox (Ida)
1939-1943    Dr. Early Lee Fox
1943-1946    Mrs. Helene Willis
1946-1949    Dr. George B. Zehmer
1949-1952    Mrs. Harriet Barrow
1952-1955    Dr. Robert O. Nelson

Virginia Congress of Parents and Teachers

1955-1958    Mrs. Helen W. Kavanaugh
1958-1961    Dr. Edgar Johnson
1961-1963    Mrs. Harold T. Gerry
1963-1965    Dr. Charles Caldwell
1965-1967    Mrs. Margaret T Duncan
1967-1969    Mr. Fred Entler
1969-1971    Mrs. Virginia A Crockford
1971-1973    Dr. Spencer Smith, Jr.
1973-1975    Mr. Robert Shaver
1975-1977    Mr. George Thompson
1977-1979    Mrs. Maybelle Coussens
1979-1981    Mrs. Janet Alley
1981-1983    Mr. George Meek
1983-1985    Mrs. Pearl Lineberry
1985-1987    Mrs. Cathy Belter
1987-1989    Mrs. Delores Delaney
1989-1991    Mr. Richard D. Martin
1991-1993    Mrs. Nancy 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
2023-2025   Ms. Jenna Alexander