Jennie Grossman Learns English in 18 Months

Below I transcribe a news story about a 13 year old girl named Jennie Grossman who learned English in 18 months at the Shields School in the Carr Square neighborhood. The news article is dated in 1903, suggesting she was born approximately 1890. The article also states the family left Russia when she was 8. 

I have been unable to find the Grossman family in the 1900 Census in St. Louis. I believe they are in the 1910 census, and if I have the correct family, it states they immigrated in 1899. Other records suggest from Volhynia. They may not have immediately settled in St. Louis. This Jennie Grossman would marry Robert Parkinson, and it doesn’t appear they had any offspring. 


The St Louis Republic 
St. Louis, Missouri 
30 Jan 1903 - Page 5 

Jennie Grossman learns English in 18 months GIRL LEARNS ENGLISH IN 18 MONTHS

Among the bright compositions collected from the various public schools of the city and filed by the Board of Education is one written by Jennie Grossman, a 13-year-old pupil of the Shields School, who a year and a half ago was unable to speak a. single word of English. 

Jennie is in the first quarter of the third grade. She has accomplished in a year and a half what is not expected of an ordinary child in less than three years. Until last week, when she was promoted, her teacher was Miss Mabel A. Coan. 

This pupil was born in Russia and lived there until she was 8 years old. For several years after her parents came to this city she did not attend any school, as they did not speak the English language and did not know of the provisions for children's schooling. By chance they happened to learn that their home, No. 701 Biddle street, was in the district of the Shields School, and a year and a half ago the child was enrolled as a pupil there. 

It is not an uncommon thing in the Shields School to receive children in the primary department of the language, and the teachers regard instruction in that line as a part of the regular routine. From the first Jennie Grossman showed an aptitude to learn and was promoted from grade to grade as she deserved. 

Miss Coan, who was the child's teacher when the essay was written, teaches her children ethics in a simple manner, and without their discovering that they are in the least dealing with life lessons. It is her custom to read some simple story with a strong moral and require strict attention from her pupils. Afterwards they are required to reproduce it in their own language and point out the lesson which they think is taught.


The particular story that gave rise to the composition was a translation from the French, entitled "The Sunbeam." The pupils were not required to write it until two days after it had been read. It was done then without aid or assistance from the teacher, and without suggestion as to the choice of words or phrases. 

Extracts from the composition that attracted the attention of an official of the Board of Education is here given exactly as it was written by Jennie Grossman. 

It is morning and the sun is shining and little Helen is still asleep. No one has entered her chamber and little Helen seems to be dreaming. For she is smiling. The first thing she receives is a kiss from who? Can you guess? Is it from a bird? The shutters are closed and the door is too. It is the sunbeam who has planted a kiss on her lips. Little Helen wakes up; she rubs her eyes and looks all around. She saw the sun creeping in through a crack of the shutter.

Then she said to the sunbeam "I think you have been up a long time and worked hard. Tell me of some things you have seen this morning. Did you see any children?" 

"1 think I did; I saw Lizzie in the yard feeding the chickens and little Annie had milked the cows and went to bring milk to everybody, and I saw John driving the goats to the meadow,  and I think now it is time for you to get up."

"Yes," answered little Helen. "I will get np and start to work, and to-morrow when you come at this time you will not find me here." 

And so little Helen got up and made her toilet and ate her breakfast and started to work, and from that time on she became a hard little worker.

Caption below photograph

Thirteen-year-old pupil of the Shield School, who was unable to speak English eighteen months ago, but who has written recently a bright composition in that language. 


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