History of PTA

On February 17, 1897, the PTA idea took on the force and vitality of a nationwide movement when some 2,000 people arrived in Washington, DC to discuss “questions most vital to the welfare of children and the manifold interests of the home.” They came in response to the call of Alice McLellan Birney and Phoebe Apperson Hearst and met for three days. When they left, they had brought into being a national association dedicated to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children in home, school, place of worship, and community, an association that was to grow in strength and influence.

Today, there are fifty-four congresses in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands, and schools serving military dependents in Europe and the Pacific. Through the efforts of Selena Sloan Butler, the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers was founded in 1926 at a time when segregated schools were mandated in the southern United States. In 1970, with the merger of the National PTA and the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers, PTA became a unified association of persons interested in the well-being of children regardless of differences. PTA’s strength lies in its variety of members: parents, grandparents, teachers, single parents, business people, administrators, and anyone who cares about children.

PTA in New York actually predates the national meeting in 1897 by two years. Alice McLellan Birney attended the “School for Parents” in Chautauqua and talked with other women about her idea of drawing mothers together for better homes, schools, and communities for all children. The New York association became the first state congress. Fannie Barnes was the first president. The first state meeting, which attracted fifty members, was held in Syracuse on September 30 and October 1, 1897.

The New York State PTA is incorporated as a not-for-profit association under the laws of New York State and serves as a branch of National PTA.


Past New York State PTA Presidents

Fannie Barnes (1897-1898)

Mary Mears (1898-1905)

Ina Merrell (1905-1907)

Lillian Whish (1907-1911)

Nellie Eldredge (1911-1913)

Isabelle Holland (1913-1917)

Belle Saltford (1917-1920)

Marie Holley (1920-1923)

Caroline Hosmer (1923-1926)

Carolyn Weaver (1926-1928)

Belle Saltford (1928-1929)

Lena Stevenson (1929-1932)

Dorothy Blake (1932-1935)

Elizabeth Brodie (1935-1938)

Mildred Brister (1938-1941)

Doris Pratt (1941-1944)

Margaret Jenkins (1944-1947)

Helen Rowe Newell (1947-1950)

Mary Chapman (1950-1953)

Martha Fallon (1953-1956)

Jeanne Springer (1956-1959)

Jane Cobb (1959-1962)

Elizabeth Mallory (1962-1965)

Ruberta Foster (1965-1968)

Alice Willett (1968-1971)

Helen Vandermosten (1971-1974)

Edna Polin (1974-1977)

Eris Thompson (1977-1980)

Joan Ball (1980-1983)

Marvin Fretwal (1983-1986)

Mary Ann Parker (1986-1988)

Sheila Cohen (1988-1990)

Helen Liebowitz (1990-1993)

Carol Buyakowski (1993-1996)

Carolyn Fiori (1996-1999)

Jane Berhard (1999-2002)

Penny Leask (2002-2005)

Maria DeWald (2005-2008)

Susan Lipman (2008-2010)

Maria Fletcher (2010-2012)

Lana Ajemian (2012-2014)

Bonnie Russell (2014-2016)