Shirley Wright has lived in Greenwich Village for three quarters of a century, and co-founded the West Village Nursery School, a model, progressive, nursery school that has been a cornerstone institution in Greenwich Village for over sixty years, teaching children through play.
Shirley learned her progressive approach to education at the Bank Street College of Education, when it was located in Greenwich Village. Shirley and several of her neighbors saw a need for a cooperative-based nursery school for young children in the neighborhood, even as Robert Moses was declaring the area “blighted” and slated for demolition and redevelopment. Over the years, Shirley played a key role in not only founding the school, but in it establishing a permanent home and sound financial footing, when so many others have come and gone.
In addition to discussing the establishment and history of the school, Shirley talks about her own experiences: as a transplant from Ohio; biking across post-War Europe with other young women; and life and changes she experienced in her adopted home of Greenwich Village over seven decades. Shirley is one of a generation of Greenwich Village women who saw a need in their community, and rather than waiting around for someone else to do something about it, took it up themselves.
Transcript of Audio Clip:
“My name is Shirley Wright, and I live on West 11th Street…and I’ve been here since 1950, not in this exact location, but all in the West Village, west of Hudson Street… Sitting in the park with her is where I would meet other mothers, and I’d say, ‘What nursery school are you going to?’ One of the jobs that I’d had––Bank Street would get me jobs, and one of them was at a co-op nursery school. A couple of them were. They were popular in those days. There’d be a teacher, and the mothers would be the assistants. And I said, ‘We could do that here.’ So I spoke to my advisor at Bank Street, and she said, ‘Oh, I think I know of a place.’ It was this place on Horatio Street. Oh, my eyes lit up about Horatio Street; it was the school that had sold the house that I lived in…a nursery school that these women from Westchester in the 1930s bought. They bought the three houses on Horatio Street and made the little cubbies and the linoleum floors…and I actually knew that that building had been okayed for a nursery school, which was a huge, big plus.”
The full transcript of this audio begins on page 7 of the Oral History Document found here.