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Bertha Pratt KingHistorical hero wrote about “The Worth of a Girl”

A century ago, women’s activist Bertha Pratt King of Terre Haute, Ind., put pen to paper to celebrate the value and promise of girls. She wrote, “The Worth of a Girl”.

“She had a special affinity for helping girls, through education, break free of the confines that society created for them,” her hometown newspaper, the Tribune Star reported.

King’s 1916 book, “The Worth of a Girl”, outlined her belief that “every girl should be able to earn her own living, that she should be trained to some pursuit of her own happiness, and that she should become a useful member of society,” according to a quote from the book.

Nearly 100 years later, women in the regions Central Asia Institute (CAI) serves – and around the world – still battle for the same fundamental rights American women sought, and won, a century ago.

King’s story is a good reminder that none of this comes easily.

The wife of poet Max Ehrmann, King co-founded the King-Crawford Classical School in 1906, an exclusive private school that provided co-ed education through eighth grade, but limited its high school to female students, according to Tom Roznowski, author of “An American Hometown.”

“Seven years of Latin were required and French was taught to every child at every grade level every day,” Roznowski wrote. “The King Classical School was meant to be an exclusive experience, but Bertha Pratt King was determined that it not be a sheltered one.

“All of the girls in their final year were required to do settlement work somewhere in Terre Haute. Furthermore, a private invitation was to be extended once a month to an impoverished girl for a luncheon at the student’s home,” Roznowski wrote.

Aide from “The Worth of a Girl”, it was King’s public lectures and writings on then-controversial topics ranging from women’s suffrage to women wage earners that earned her a place in American history.

Many of the freedoms American women have today did not exist in the early 1900s. Yet King wrote with spirit and an all-encompassing hope for the future.

“How many different kinds of girls there are! Girls in stores and factories, working girls with their brave fight for existence, girls in high school, girls in boarding school, girls in college,” she wrote.

“Girls lifeless, girls ambitious for life; girls strong in the pride of youth, stirred with strange dreams; girls in the cities; girls in the town; girls on the farms, looking beyond their fathers’ fields and meadows towards the alluring gaiety of big cities. In the keeping of all these girls of today are the generations of the future,” King wrote.

Unfortunately, the book is out of print. The cover and press reviews can be seen on a brochure, but the only way to see the book is to visit the Vigo County Historical Museum in Terrre Haute.

Bertha Pratt King died in 1962.

We celebrate her life and her contribution to the ongoing struggle for women’s and girls’ rights today, International Women’s Day. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives.

To read stories of CAI’s heroes in the field, request a copy of this year’s Journey of Hope publication. And check back soon for more stories about the women who inspire us.

– Karin Ronnow, communications director

Photo courtesy of the Terre Haute, Ind., Tribune Star