The first American "Modern School", based on the ideas of the Spanish anarchist & educator Francisco Ferrer, was founded by a group including Leonard Abbott, Alexander Berkman & Emma Goldman, in 1911 in New York City.
Several women, including Elizabeth Ferm, Jo Ann Wheeler, Nellie Dick & Anna Schwartz, were instrumental in the school's development.
Elizabeth Ferm wrote extensively on alternative education & was also a contributor to Emma Goldman's monthly Mother Earth journal.
Established in 1911, the Modern School was moved to Stelton, New Jersey, in 1914.
See Paul Avrich, The Modern School Movement (Princeton, 1980) & Laurence Veysey, "The Ferrer Colony & the Modern School," in The Communal Experience: Anarchist & Mystical Communities in Twentieth-Century America (University of Chicago Press, 1978).
Online, see Elizabeth Ferm's long out-of-print,
Freedom in Education, (also available in PDF format)
On the Modern School, see Aaron Wunderlich's excellent in-depth pages dedicated to the Modern School, Ferrer, etc, at
or, also at the Rutger University search page, enter the search term "Modern School Collection" at
Elizabeth Ferm ca. 1918 on her farm in Hampton, Connecticut.
Page created January 2003
"The child who has been subjected to direction is always non-creative, restless, exacting and capricious. He has been trained to look to others for help."
Elizabeth Byrne Ferm (??-1944)