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Minna Schellhorn 1829-1910

made Friedrich Froebel's guiding saying her own. What this Kindergarten teacher, from a well-to-do Weimar family of retailers, learned in the Educational Institute of Bad Liebenstein emboldened her for an entire lifetime. It caused her younger sisters, Emma and Bertha, to do the same. They were known affectionately as the "Schellhorn Aunts" for the generations of growing children whom they took care of in their exquisite home at Rollplatz 10. They were an institution, and as Minna marked her 90th year in 1909, collection areas were designated within the city (Weimar) where citizens could bring their gifts, with which they wished to honor the elderly woman celebrating her birthday. The citizens gave in abundance, and this allowed the aged sisters to visit their legendary Schellhorn Bank with a car. A miniature model of the Schellhorn Bank even decorated the Gift Table of the celebrant. But the remaining sisters, who never had married, had not lived any longer at Rollplat 10 for quite a while, perferring to enjoy their autumn years in a spacious apartment at Ettersberg Street 14, which is today Ernst-Thaelmann Street 18.

Let us look into the past: It is not difficult to imagine that the parents of the Schellhorn girls could do little to dissuade their girls from the desire to have their own professional training. As the Minna, the eldest of the trio, decided in 1851 to study with Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel (1782-1852) in order to acquire training to be a kindergarten teacher, she was certainly observed by some Weimarers with envy. She perservered in her wish and eventually was successful. She was not the only one with such longing, as Froebels courses for kindergarten teachers enjoyed a great influx of students. Froebel recognized the high significance of play for children as "the key to the outer world" : "The fount of all human paths of developments lies in play." According to Froebel, play was "a wonderful means for the awakening of the inner world." He coined the phrase "Kindergarten", which is used around the world either in the original German or is translated. Minna Schellhorn experienced him as a sympathetic teacher and a personality absorbed by humanistic ideas.

In a document which is still preserved to this day, Froebel attests that the then 22 year old : "Fraeuline Minna Schellhorn from Weimar has chosen of her own inner volition the profession of Kindergarten teacher..."

Froebel's concept extended far beyond general early childhood education institutions. However, in 1851 the Prussian government banned Froebelian kindergartens. He was accused of "training towards Atheism." Only in 1860, eight years after Froebel's death, are they allowed again. Impeding the kindergarten could do nothing to hinder its victorious spread around the world.


When the Russian author, Leo Tolstoy, visited Weimar on April 17, 1861, guest of the ambassador, Apollonius von Maltitz, he visited a Schellhorn Kindergarten upon his express wish. He was greatly impressed.

Minna Schellhorn, later the "Directress of the Female Kindergarten Teacher Seminar in Weimar," answered Tolstoy's question about Froebel's Institute, explained Froebel's didactic games, had movement exercises performed and gave information freely.

On the gift table amongst the many presents placed there for her 80th birthday, there was also a moving memento from her own childhood--her first pair of shoes. Tiny little baby shoes for the beginning of a life conciously dedicated to children. She had brought the feet of hundreds upon hundreds of children level to their own pathway in life during her 50 years of service. She was generous, understanding, and protective. The most important didactic and educational means are self-activity, discovery, and creative problem solving, a cogent grasping of things and subsequent application. "What is 'play' for the little ones?" Froebel had once asked and then answered: "It is the great Play of Life, only in its little beginnings."

Minna Schellhorn embraced Froebel's ideas with gusto and promulgated them her entire life. In 1873, the 44 year old woman, conscious of her responsibility, belonged to the founding members of the German Froebel Society, was the co-publisher of Froebels Pedagogical Letters (Schriften), and a member of the General International Club of Female Kindergarten Teachers (Allgemeiner Internationaler Kindergaertnerinnenverein), which named her a member of honor for her 80th birthday. The scope of her kindergarten and kindergarten teacher seminars was limited to the sons and daughters of well-to-do homes, because her kindergarten was a private institution financed through fees and contributions. However, the diploma it conferred was officially recognized by the State. In the mid 1890s the three sisters retreated from the leadership of the kindergarten and seminar and laid it in younger hands.

At the same time they watched vigilantly the development of the institute from their apartment in Etterberger Straße #18 (Weimar). Minna Schellhorn died on April 9, 1910 after a lengthy illness. The large house on Rollplatz 10 experienced varied use in the following decades: in 1928 the inheritance of the Schellhorn sisters then belonged to the Weimar City Government and the Thuringian Bureau of Standards (Eichamt); it also contained many apartments. Later the Labour Office, then the Animal Inspection Office of the Ministry of Land and Forestry, the Library of the German Building Acadamy (Bauakademie) and finally the Childrens Polyclinic. Even today on the ground floor of the building used for doctors' offices, there is still a pediatric clinic. For the doctors located there Froebel's motto still holds true in the fullness of its message: "Come, Let us live with our children" (Kommt, lasst uns unsern Kindern leben).

LASST UNS UNSERN KINDERN LEBEN Rollplatz 10: Haeuser und Ihre Geschichte (182) von Christiane Weber TLZ (Weimar) Sonnabend/Saturday April 14 2001 uebersetzt von Johannes Froebel-Parker

Copyright © 2001 Froebel Web. All rights reserved. info@froebelweb.com

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Friedrich Froebel: His Life, Times and Significance

This book by Peter Weston for the general reader is an illustrated life of Friedrich Froebel that places him in the turbulent political and intellectual context of his times. It also identifies those aspects of his educational practice that are of enduring value in the contemporary world.