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Notes from the Backpack Podcast

National PTA History

Over 120 Years Strong

For more than 120 years, National Parent Teacher Association (National PTA®) has worked toward bettering the lives of every child in education, health and safety. Founded in 1897 as the National Congress of Mothers by Alice McLellan Birney and Phoebe Apperson Hearst, National PTA is a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for families and communities, and a strong advocate for public education.

Today’s PTA is a network of millions of families, students, teachers, administrators, and business and community leaders devoted to the educational success of children and the promotion of family engagement in schools. 


birney.jpgAlice McLellan Birney and Phoebe Apperson Hearst founded the organization when women did not have the right to vote and social activism was not popular. However, they believed mothers would support their mission to eliminate threats that endangered children, and in early 1897, they started a nationwide campaign.

On Feb., 17, 1897, more than 2,000 people—mostly hearst.jpgmothers, but also fathers, teachers, laborers and legislators—attended the first convocation of the National Congress of Mothers in Washington, D.C. Twenty years later, 37 chartered state congresses existed.

In 1970, the National Congress of Parents and Teachers (National PTA) and the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers (NCCPT)—founded by butlerSelena Sloan Butler in Atlanta, Ga.—merged to serve all children.

As the largest volunteer child advocacy organization in the nation, National PTA is the conscience of the country for children and youth issues. Through advocacy, as well as family and community education, National PTA has established programs and called for legislation that improves our children’s lives, such as:

  • Creation of Kindergarten classes
  • Child labor laws
  • Public health service
  • Hot and healthy lunch programs
  • Juvenile justice system
  • Mandatory immunization
  • Arts in Education
  • School Safety

Founders’ Day

Founders’ Day (February 17) is when we celebrate the legacy and work of our founders—Alice McLellan Birney, Phoebe Apperson Hearst and Selena Sloan Butler—to better the lives of every child in education, health and safety. It is a time to reflect and take pride in our achievements, and renew our commitment to be a:

  • powerful voice for all children;
  • relevant resource for parents; and
  • strong advocate for public education.

Our founders represented women of imagination and courage. They had a simple idea—to improve the lives and future of all children. They understood the power of individual action, worked beyond the accepted barriers of their day, and took action to change the world for all children.

Historical Timeline of PTA

2010-Present | 2000-2009
1990-1999 | 1980-1989 | 1970-1979 | 1960-1969 | 1950-1959 | 1940-1949 | 1930-1939 | 1920-1929 | 1910-1919 | 1900-1909

Congress Charter Years

 Year Chartered


 1897  National PTA, New York State
 1899  Pennsylvania
 1900  Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, New Jersey
 1901  Ohio
 1902  California
 1905  District of Columbia*, Idaho, Oregon, Washington State
 1906  Arizona, Georgia
 1907  Colorado
 1909  Mississippi, Rhode Island, Texas
 1910  Massachusetts, Wisconsin
 1911  Alabama, Delaware, Tennessee
 1912  Indiana, Missouri, Vermont
 1913  New Hampshire
 1914  Kansas
 1915  Maryland, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota
 1916  Maine
 1918  Kentucky, Michigan
 1919  North Carolina
 1921  Florida, Virginia
 1922  Nebraska
 1923  Louisiana, Minnesota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia, Wyoming
 1925  Arkansas, Utah
 1926  Hawaii
 1940  Nevada
 1957  Alaska
 1958  Europe
 1998  Virgin Islands
 2010  Puerto Rico
   * District of Columbia had its charter revoked in 2017 and was re-chartered in 2018


Data gathered from Founders Day, February 17, 1964 book from National PTA archives