Viola Olerich: The Famous Baby Scholar. Utopian Education, Henry Olerich.

Viola Olerich: The Famous Baby Scholar.

Chicago: Laird & Lee, Publishers, (1900). First edition. 8vo, original blue cloth, pictorial paper label, 81 pages. Frontis, 16 plates. Cloth soiled and somewhat worn, pictorial onlay portrait of Viola scratched; a good, sound copy. Item #17859

“Our chief object for adopting a child was to test, in a practical way, a new theory of education, which we believed to be much superior to any educational system which has heretofore been used.” Something of a relatively benign Midwestern variant on Thomas Day and John Bicknell’s Sabrina Sidney project, an example of utopian educational reform from the Iowa author whose utopian novel A Cityless and Countryless World (Holstein, Iowa, 1893) had proposed communal cooperative settlements; with the adoption of his infant daughter Viola in 1897, Olerich turned his attention to his “Natural Method” of education, which encouraged child-led inquiry and play-based learning. Olerich toured extensively with Viola around the Midwest, showing off her facility with foreign languages, typing abilities, anatomy, and her prowess in reading and spelling. (She was reported at age four to have defeated six Nebraska Wesleyan students in a spelling bee.) In addition to Olerich’s detailed reports here of methods and philosophical approach to Viola’s education are numerous views of Viola showing off the geometrical terms she knows, the varieties of seeds with which she is acquainted, etc. See Grant, H. R. “Henry Olerich and Utopia: the Iowa Years, 1870-1902.”The Annals of Iowa 43 (1976), 349-362.

Price: $250.00

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