hallahan high school

Catholic Girls’ High School

The parochial school system in Philadelphia officially began in 1852 under Philadelphia’s fourth bishop, John Nepomucene Neumann. However, the first Catholic schools in Philadelphia can be traced to the mid- to late-18th century under the purview of local parishes, and early expansion occurred unsystematically until the 1850s. Since few parishes had the resources to provide a K-12 education, many Catholic households chose to send their children to Philadelphia’s public schools. Due to several factors (including doubts about the suitability of a public education for Catholic children and growing anti-Catholic sentiment and the nativist riots of 1844), Bishop Francis Kenrick began pushing for separate parochial schools for Philadelphia’s Catholic families. By 1850, nearly every parish had a free school. By 1852, Philadelphia had a parochial school system administered by a central school board. Consistent policies were established in 1890, when the central board voted to create an administrative staff to develop a cohesive curriculum and standardized policies regarding personnel, attendance, grading, and examinations. In 1894, Archbishop Patrick John Ryan selected Father John W. Shanahan as the first superintendent of Catholic schools in Philadelphia. His successor, Reverend Philip R. McDevitt, was appointed in 1899. McDevitt advocated for the creation of new high schools with practical curricula to attract Catholic families away from public high schools, and systemized the supervision of each school. Operated on a citywide basis, these schools would act to upgrade and standardize the curriculum and practices of the decentralized feeder parish schools. In 1895, the board established a group of inspectors to oversee the schools, and in 1901 the power to appoint principals and teachers was transferred from local priests to the central board.

The Archdiocesan Superintendent of Schools records date from 1890 to 1932, with bulk dates of 1910 to 1926, and document the administrations of Philip R. McDevitt, superintendent from 1899 to 1916; John K. Flood, superintendent from 1916 to 1922; and Joseph M. O’Hara, superintendent from 1922 to 1926. While the collection mainly pertains to McDevitt, Flood, and O’Hara, it also contains a small amount of records associated with the administration of John J. Bonner, superintendent from 1926-1945.

9.6 linear feet, 23 boxes

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