A History of PTA

The National PTA, was founded on February 17, 1897, by Alice McLellen Birney and Phoebe Apperson Hearst, in Washington D.C. It was originally called the National Congress of Mothers. The group of mothers were concerned with the education, health and safety of children and youth… the same concerns the PTA has 100+ years later. In 1908, the organization officially changed its name to the National Congress of Mothers and Parent -Teacher Associations, today it’s generally known as the National PTA. There are over six million PTA members in the nation (more than 364,000 members in Florida). PTA is the largest volunteer organization in the United States with one purpose — to serve children, their families, and their school communities.

Selena Sloan Butler was the founder and first president of the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers (NCCPT) to function in states that legally mandated segregation. In 1970 the congress united with the National PTA. Today, Mrs. Butler is considered a co-founder of the National PTA.

Florida PTA

The first local unit in Florida, was the West Riverside PTA, organized in 1921, in Jacksonville. The Florida PTA began in 1921, with an organizational meeting in Jacksonville. It wasn’t until 1923 that the Florida PTA became an official branch of the National PTA. The Charter was granted on April 14, 1923. We were the 45th state to become a branch of the National PTA. The Florida PTA started slowly, but in 1924, our membership increased 235% (from 1,636 to 5,445 members)!

In 1927, the Colored Congress of Parents and Teachers was organized in Florida. In 1970, the National PTA and the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers became one organization.

On July 18, 1928 the Florida PTA filed incorporation papers. The incorporators of the Florida Branch of the National Congress of Parents and Teachers Associations and signers of the charter were: Willie T. Fanger, Hialeah, president, Ruth Nooney, Jacksonville, first vice president, Amy E. Cook, Miami, second vice president, Aldine K. Vinson, Tampa, third vice president, Catherine F. McClellan, Jacksonville, fourth vice president, I.E. Phillips, Jacksonville, fifth vice president, Jennie L. Lemon, Orlando, recording secretary and Mary Leary, DeLand, Historian.

In 1932, during the great depression, Florida and Texas were the only states with a membership increase. Florida had 385 associations (local units) with 26,570 members. Also in 1932, the Florida PTA authorized and financed the printing of the bylaws of the Colored Congress of PTAs. The official song for the Congress was selected, O Glorious Florida, written by Viola Edwards of Tampa. In 1933, the name changed to Florida Congress of Parents and Teachers, Inc.

Compiled by the Fine Arts Chair, a song book entitled Let’s Sing was distributed to the 1941 convention delegates.

In 1950, Florida PTAs helped raise monies toward the new national headquarters, requesting that each member contribute $.25 toward the purchase of a new building.


State conventions have been held all over the state. In place of a convention in 1937 and 1939, Regional Conferences were held. The convention was moved to the fall for the first time in 1936. In 1943, because of the war there was no convention. The Silver Anniversary Convention in 1949, was in West Palm Beach, with over 800 delegates in attendance. The convention theme was “Rediscovering the Family”. Previews of the book written about the first 25 years of the Florida PTA were distributed.

Honorary Life Memberships: History Walk of Fame

To help the PTA’s treasury, in 1924, the Florida PTA began the Honorary Life Membership Award. The first honorary life membership was given to D.P. Davis (famed for his man-made islands near Tampa). In 1926, an Honorary Life Membership was given Thomas A. Edison. In 1997, the Florida PTA began its History Walk of Fame. The walk of fame is located at the Orlando office. The first brick was given to Sandy Traeger, Florida PTA President, 1996-1998.  Governor Lawton Chiles received a brick in November 1998.

Leadership Training

Summer Institute (now called Leadership Conference) began in 1925. The first training was held in June at the University of Florida Gainesville. The training has been held at the Florida State College for Women in Tallahassee, Florida State University and returned to the University of Florida, later it was held at Stetson University in DeLand, and Rollins College in Winter Park. Leadership Conference has been held at the Innisbrook Resort in Tarpon Springs and attendees are encouraged to bring their families. In recent years, the Leadership Conference averages over 1,100 attendees.

Legislative Activity

Almost immediately, the Florida PTA activity worked toward the establishment of lunchrooms in our schools. Many early lunchrooms were equipped by donations from the families of it’s students. One of the first lunchrooms on record was in a used shed, and was equipped by donations. In 1924, lunchrooms were ruled to be under the care of PTAs.

1924 brought about the inequality of education funding in Florida, ranging from $.75 per child in Baker County to $17.50 per child in Pinellas County. In 1932, the PTA gave its endorsement to guarantee every child in Florida an eight-month school term.

State Office

In the beginning, our correspondence and clerical work was completed by the president, officers and chairmen. Each administrative change meant moving records and materials. In September 1930, our first “state office” opened in a downtown Tampa conference room, and employed a part-time secretary. The next move in 1932, to the home of the president, employed a part-time secretary and purchased a new duplicating machine! In 1938, the state office was set up in Manatee, with a part-time secretary. 1938 established the headquarters for the state office in Orlando, located in the Vocational School building, at the Orange County Public Schools and employed a full-time secretary. In 1943, an additional part-time office assistant was added to handle mailing of the Florida Parent Teacher Bulletin. The first state office building was built in the 1950s on Orange Avenue on Lake Ivanhoe. The current state office building opened January 2, 1969, with a formal dedication on November 21, 1969.

We’ve come a long way. This year we reached thousands of people at our convention, conferences and local PTA meetings. We have helped thousands of children through our efforts at our local schools. We have accomplished a lot, but there is still more to do. We need to continue to work together for the good of all children. This history is dedicated to our children… the children of Florida. May the day come when all children will achieve the goals for which we are striving and remember us kindly and with affection.

Founders Day

PTA Origins