Elizabeth E. Farrell


Elizabeth FarrellElizabeth E. Farrell was an educational pioneer. She is known for being the first person to teach a class of special education students in America, and for organizing the Council for Exceptional Children.

Farrell was from Welsh-Irish background. She attended Oswego Normal and Training School--now State University of NewYork at Oswego, graduating in 1895 from the English degree program. Following her graduation she spend two years in a teacher training program that emphasized Pestalozzi's philosophy of education. In 1898, she taught in a one-room school house in Oneida Castle, NY. And in 1899 Farrell took teaching position at Henry Street School on lower east side, NYC.

It was in her NYC teaching position that she created an ungraded class of 19 students, 12 diagnosed as retarded. They ranged in age from 8-16 years. She described her first class as:

Made up of the odds and ends of a large school. There were over-age children, so-called naughty children, and the dull and stupid children. They were taken from any and every school grade. The ages ranged from eight to sixteen years. They were the children who could not get along in school.While some .had been in trouble with the police, as a class they could not be characterized as criminal (Farrell, 1908, p. 91-92).

During her time in New York, Farrell lived in the Henry Street Settlement House, where worked closely with Lillian Wald, director and innovator of the Henry Street Settlement House programs.

By 1903 New York City had organized 10 special classes, modeled after Farrell's This number grew to 14 in 1906 and then to 131 in 1911. Farrell was appointed as director of this special education program in 1906, officially called by the Department of Education of NYC: The Inspector of Ungraded Class Department.

In 1913, in her role as Inspector, Farrell began a diagnostic clinic--what she called a "Psycho-Educational Clinic" with the NYC School Board. It was designed to detect factors that might be contributing to the maladjustment of children referred to her. The clinic had staff from 4 disciplines: psychology, social services, medicine and education. She also had two volunteer visiting teachers on her staff who later became salaried.

In 1915, Farrell began a journal, called "Ungraded" published by the Ungraded Teacher's Association of New York City. The journal produced 11 volumes, and continued until 1926.

Farrell frequently taught courses at universities, including:

Farrell assumed a leadership role in the special education community. Among her influences were:

Writings by Elizabeth Farrell, in chronological order

Farrell, E. (1908-1909). Special classes in the New York City schools. Journal of Psycho-Asthenics, 13, 91-96.

Farrell, E. (1914). A study of the school inquiry report on ungraded classes. The Psychological clinic, 8, 2-3-4.

Farrell, E. (1915) A preliminary report on the careers of three hundred fifty children who have left ungraded classes. Journal of Psycho-Asthenics, 20, 20-26.

Farrell, E. (1915). The backward child. Ungraded, 1, 3, 4-9.

Farrell, E. (1915). Preliinary report on children discharged from ungraded classes. Ungraded, 6, 3, 87-89.

Farrell, E. (1920). Selection of children for psychological and psychiatric exam. Ungraded, 6, 2.

Farrell, E. (1921). Survey of nationality of children in ungraded classes. Ungraded, 7, 2, 25-28.

Farrell, E. (1921). The unclassified child. Ungraded, 8, 5, 97-104.

Farrell, 1924). Mental hygiene problems of maladjusted children. Ungraded, 9, 5, 99-108.

Farrell, (1924). Some causes of delinquency. Ungraded, 10, 2.

Farrell, E. (1925). What New York City does for its problem children. Ungraded, 11, 5, 10-18.

Writings about Elizabeth Farrell and her Ungraded Classes

Anon. (1935). Elizabeth E. Farrell. Exceptional Children, 1, 72-76.

Goddard, H. H. (1912). Report on educational aspects of the public school system of the city of New York to the committee of School Inquiry of the Board of Estimate and Appointment: Ungraded classes. NY: Board of Education of the City of New York.

Kode, Kimberly (2002). Elizabeth Farrell and the history of special education. Arlington, VA: Council for Exceptional Children.

Warner, M. L. (1944). Founders of the International Council for Exceptional Children. Journal of Exceptional Children, 10, 217-223.

Farrells papers are housed at Teachers' College, Columbia University in NYC. http://lweb.tc.columbia.edu/cs/sc/Finding_Aids/PDF/eliz_farrell.pdf