Evelyn Riggs Dewey (1889-1965), was an education reformer and social activist and author of several books on education. Prior to her education work she was involved in the Women's Trade Union League, particularly concerning the New York shirtwaist strike of 1909. She was the daughter of the philosopher, psychologist and education reformer John Dewey and the educator Alice Chipman Dewey.

Life and Work

Dewey was born in 1889, the second of six children born to the educationalists John Dewey and Alice Chipman Dewey.[1][2] In 1909 she was studying at Barnard College, New York City, during time she was involved in the Women's Trade Union League (WTUL) and supported the Shirtwaistmakers' Strike. Evelyn traveled in Europe with her parents, visiting Montessori schools, and in the winter of 1914 she and her parents met Maria Montessori, to whom they were introduced by Evelyn's college roommate, the Montessori teacher Margaret Naumburg.[3] While satisfied by what they saw at the schools, neither Evelyn nor her mother seemed impressed by Montessori herself.[3] It was following this visit, and the visit of her father and adopted brother, Sabino, to Marietta Johnson's School of Organic Education, that Evelyn and John Dewey decided on a survey of experimental schools in the US, such as those run by William Wirt in Gary IN.[1] This was published in 1915 as Schools of To-morrow, one of the key texts of educational reform.[1] Evelyn was probably responsible for the descriptive chapters in Schools of To-morrow, in which the phrase 'learning by doing' is first used to describe the educational approach taken in some of the schools that the Deweys admired.[4]

Around the time of the publication of Schools of To-Morrow Evelyn Dewey started working administering IQ tests at the Public Education Association of the City of New York (PEA) Psychological Survey, where she was one of several supporters of the WTUL who worked under Lucy Sprague Mitchell.[1] In 1916 Sprague Mitchell, Caroline Pratt and Harriet Merrill Johnson founded the Bureau of Educational Experiments, of which Evelyn Dewey was one of 12 charter members.[1] At the BEE Dewey ran experiments renovating rural schools and running school farms, which she reported in her 1920 book New Schools for Old.[5]

Dewey left the BEE in 1919, and worked on editing her parents' Letters from China and Japan.[1][6] She was married in 1932 to Granville Smith Jr., and continued to speak and write on education in the 1920s and 30s under her maiden name.[1] She died in 1965 and is buried in Minneapolis.[7]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Staring, Jeroen; Aldridge, Jerry (2014). "Out of the Shadows: Redeeming the Contributions of Evelyn Dewey to Education and Social Justice (1909-1919)" (PDF). Case Studies Journal. 3 (11): 21–33. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2019-10-10. Retrieved 2019-10-10.
  2. ^ from The Dictionary of Women Worldwide: 25,000 Women Through the Ages
  3. ^ a b Stack, Sam (2009). "Alice Chipman Dewey (1858-1927): Still A Mystery?" (PDF). Journal of Philosophy and History of Education. 59: 28–37. Retrieved 2019-10-10.
  4. ^ Thorburn, Malcolm (2018). "John Dewey, subject purposes and schools of tomorrow: A centennial reappraisal of the educational contribution of physical education" (PDF). Learning, Culture and Social Interaction. 19: 22–28. doi:10.1016/j.lcsi.2018.04.001.
  5. ^ .Dewey, Evelyn (1920). New schools for old : the regeneration of the Porter School. New York: E.P. Dutton.
  6. ^ Dewey, John; Chipman Dewey, Alice (1920). Dewey, Evelyn (ed.). Letters from China and Japan. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co.
  7. ^ "Evelyn Riggs Dewey Smith". Find a grave. Retrieved 2019-10-10.
  8. ^ "Schools of to-morrow: all editions". OCLC 917898405. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. ^ "New schools for old: all editions". OCLC 975129717. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  10. ^ "Letters from China and Japan: all editions". OCLC 926714770. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  11. ^ "Methods and results of testing school children". OCLC 944374798. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. ^ "Dalton laboratory plan". OCLC 945173997. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  13. ^ "Children of the new day: all editions". OCLC 877261474. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  14. ^ "Behavior development in infants: all editions". OCLC 352239964. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)