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The famous baby scholar

Styled “the famous baby scholar,” three-year-old Viola Rosalia Olerich caught the attention of the world with her advanced learning. According to accounts in 1900, she thrived in many subjects, her parents employing the “natural method.”

Asked if the same methods could be employed in public schools, her mother told the Boston Globe in 1900: “As soon as our public schools are brought in harmony with the laws of life all natural methods can be used in them. To compel little children to sit quietly and silently for four or five hours a day is the most injurious punishment that can be inflicted. This forced and unnatural conduct of children does not only destroy the interstate’s for learning, but stunts the mind and impairs the health of every child that is so treated. I use the natural method, the method that works in harmony with interest, kindness and freedom. The school must come to the pupil, and not the pupil to the school.”

The Times of Philadelphia wrote about her in this piece, highlighting three young scholars — click here. The Globe story can be found here.

From The Typewriter and Phonographic World (New York), September 1900 —

© 2019, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • John Cooper February 22, 2019, 7:36 pm

    Ah–“destroy the interest for learning,” not “destroy the interstate’s for learning”! Thanks for the post, and for the link to the original article in the Globe.

  • Richard P February 22, 2019, 8:20 pm

    Wow, there’s a whole book about her by her father (https://books.google.com/books?id=UkcBAAAAYAAJ). I wonder how her life turned out.

  • Bill M February 22, 2019, 11:13 pm

    Amazing child. I wonder if it would work for every child.

  • Peggy Storms June 9, 2023, 10:44 am

    Viola was my mother -in- law. She was the most gracious and modest person I have ever known.Viola lived to the age of 97. She never raised her voice when things were not going well for family or friends. She attended Grace Methodist church.
    Viola loved to play card games and scrabble .She never cared if she won or lost just enjoyed playing.

    • Mark Adams June 9, 2023, 3:45 pm

      Thank you for replying to the post about Viola. Shortly after publishing that story, I dug in a little deeper and posted an update here. Glad to hear she lived a long, full life full of family love. Thanks again.

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