Dorothy W Hewes

Dorothy W. Hewes

Dr. Dorothy W. Hewes was an Early Childhood educator, professor, leader, and historian during the last half of the 20th century. She was the co-author of one of the first preschool administration textbooks and was known as the “Mother of the History of Early Childhood Education.”1 As one of the founders of the Bakersfield Play Center preschool, she emphasized that it was a “play” center for parents, teachers, and children.2

Born in 1922 in Illinois, Dr. Hewes' early education was based on Friedrich Froebel's principles of individuality. Later she would join her mother and grandmother in utilizing Froebel's teachings in early childhood clinics and as a professor.3 In her own childhood, with her family's encouragement and a like-minded teacher's guidance, Dr. Hewes started her writing accomplishments with her review of The Bobbsey Twins, published in 1930 when she was just eight years old.4

During World War II in March 1943, Dr. Hewes received her Bachelor's degree in Institution Management from the College of Home Economics at Iowa State College in Ames, Iowa. After graduating she joined the Marine Corps Women's Reserve, became a mess sergeant, and learned to work within a highly regimented system.

From her military experience she would later be able to see the value of a disciplined and uniform learning system, which contrasted with her upbringing under a self-directed individual system. She came to believe that “educators should combine the two systems of practice – appropriate discipline, similar to what I experienced in the Marine Corps, and the self-directed learning all persons should determine for themselves... Only a strong balance between these two will achieve true educational progress.”5

Though she was always interested in being a preschool educator, it wasn't until after World War II that there was funding for early child care settings in America. Utilizing the GI Bill, she began studying child development at the University of California at Berkley in 1945. Eventually she earned a MBA degree in marketing6 and a Ph.D. degree. Her doctoral dissertation was about William Hailmann, an educator who furthered Froebel's theories, especially concerning early childhood education.

Two years into her studies, Dr. Hewes attended the 1947 Annual Conference of the National Association for Nursery Education that was later known as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Thereafter, she became involved with the NAEYC on the local, state, and national levels, including serving on both the NAEYC Governing Board and the California AEYC Board. In California she was the state AEYC legislative chair and became the Historian of the San Diego AEYC. In 1972 she founded the NAEYC Annual Conference History Seminar and moderated its annual meetings for 29 years until 2001.7 She was also a representative at the International Organization for Early Childhood Education8 and supported the Convention on the Rights of the Child.9

During this time of service in the 1950s and 1960s, Dr. Hewes taught in Southern Californian schools and childcare centers. Specifically, in1952 she co-founded Bakersfield Play Center because she wanted her son to have a progressive nursery school. At this time anyone could be a preschool administrator, a fact that concerned the California AEYC. However, as they began to establish requirements to remedy that situation, they discovered that there wasn't a published text for training administrators.10 Accordingly, from her own experiences and research, Dr. Hewes co-authored with Barbara Hartman Early Childhood Education: A Workbook for Administrators, which was published in 1972. Seven years later in 1979, she also published Administration, Making Programs Work for Children and Families and 25 years after that in 2004, drawing on a lifetime of experience, she published An Administrator's Guidebook to Early Care and Education Programs.11

Dr. Hewes became a professor in the Department of Child and Family Development at San Diego State University in 1974, a position she held for 18 years until 1992, after which she became a Professor Emeritus. Beginning in 1985, she served the next 25 years as the faculty adviser to the on-campus Children's Center until she retired in 2011 at the age of 89 years. Later that year they named the center's new bike path “Dorothy Lane” in her honor.12

A lifelong interest in the Early Childhood Education history was first sparked when she searched for a brief history to include in her first textbook for administrators. Not finding a history since the early 1900s, she began to research, write, and thus chronicle the movement. Over the years her published writings became increasingly concerning the historical perspective, including: The Froebelian Kindergarten as an International Movement (1980), Pestalozzi: Foster Father of Early Childhood Education (1992), NAEYC's First Half Century 1926-1976 (1996), and It's the Camaraderie: A History of Parent Cooperative Preschools (1998).13 Her dissertation, W.N. Hailmann: Defender of Froebel, also was published in 2001.14

In 2008, the International Froebel Society honored Dr. Hewes with their Lifetime Achievement Award for being “an inspiration to countless students, teachers and scholars,” and for having “enhanced the learning of generations of young children.” In particular, Dr. Peter Weston, president of the Society, noted how she wrote with “a skeptical eye, a commitment to truth, and most importantly – a concern for enhancing practice.”15 He further characterized Dr. Hewes' contribution: “Froebel is known as the Father of the Kindergarten and Dorothy is known as the Mother of the History of Early Childhood Education.”16

Nearly five years later, on 30 January 2013, Dr. Hewes died at the age of 90 years. In her honor a Dorothy Hewes Graduate Student Scholarship Fund was established through the San Diego AEYC.17

  • 1. “Dorothy Hewes, 1922-2013.” ExchangeEveryDay. < > 5 Feb. 2013.
  • 2. “Dr. Dorothy W. Hewes.” Zoom Information. <!search/profile/person?personId=1027965&targetid=profile > 8 May 2013.
  • 3. Hewes, Dorothy W. “Fostering Individuality, Valuing Uniformity – Learning from the Past to Engage in Tomorrow.” Our Proud Heritage. < > 5 Feb. 2013.
  • 4. Weston, Peter. “Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Dr. Dorothy W. Hewes Professor Emeritus & former Head of Child Development at San Diego State University, California.” International Froebel Society. < > 5 Feb. 2013.
  • 5. Op.cit., Hewes.
  • 6. Op.cit., “Dr. Dorothy W. Hewes.”
  • 7. Op.cit., Hewes.
  • 8. Op.cit., “Dr. Dorothy W. Hewes.”
  • 9. Op.cit., “Dorothy Hewes, 1922-2013.”
  • 10. Op.cit., Hewes.
  • 11. “Books: Dorothy W. Hewes.” Amazon. < > 8 May 2013.
  • 12. “Children's Center Celebrates 40th Anniversary.” SDSU NewsCenter. < > 8 May 2013.
  • 13. “Dorothy W. Hewes, 1985-2009.” Florida Institue of Technology, Evans Library. < > 8 May 2013.
  • 14. Op.cit., Hewes.
  • 15. Op.cit., Weston.
  • 16. Op.cit., “Dorothy Hewes, 1922-2013.”
  • 17. “San Diego Association For the Education of Young Children.” SDAEYC. < > 8 May 2013.