In the 19th century, especially after the ratification of the national constitution in 1863, the Western Armenians began to embark upon regulating and developing their domestic life in spite of the existing numerous obstacles and prohibitions. Permission for building Armenian educational and cultural institutions as well as kindergartens was acquired with great difficulty.
The first Armenian kindergarten was established in Kadi Gyugh in the Ottoman Empire (a quarter in Constantinople) between 1888 and 1889 on the initiative of pedagogue Gayané Madakian, who had arrived from Eastern Armenia. Thanks to her persistent efforts, soon a great number of similar institutions were founded in different quarters of Constantinople, and in many Armenian-inhabited localities of Western Armenia and the Ottoman Empire.
From the 20th century on nearly all the Armenian colleges functioning in the district centers and villages of Western Armenia had adjacent kindergartens functioning for children of both sexes aged between 5 and 7 years. The Kharberd city case is probably the best example of this at the beginning of the 20th century, where all the city district colleges had kindergartens as part of the educational system. The teachers of these kindergartens were mainly the graduates of Smbatyan Female College, the National College of Mezreh and the Euphrates College.
In this period the general department of Armenian national education (“The Educational Council”) granted special certificates to the best kindergarten headmistresses.
The proclamation of the Constitution in 1908 aroused great enthusiasm among the Western Armenians turning the development of the educational system into a peculiar movement and promoting further spread of such educational institutions. A number of educational and cultural associations formed on the initiative of the Armenian progressive youth supported this work greatly. The main aim of these institutions was the foundation of schools and preparatory schools, kindergartens, as well as the dissemination of education and enlightenment in different Armenian districts. Among these organizations were “The Devoted Society” (Andznver) in Constantinople, “Senekerimian society” (Senekerimyan) in Sebastia, “The Society of Smbatian and Devout” (Smbatyan and Hogeser) in Kharberd, “The Devoted Society” (Andznver) in Huseynik, “The Society of Education Advocates and Patriots” (Usumnasirac and Azgasirac) in Mezreh, “Vardan Society” (Vardanyan), “Ararat Educational Society” (Araratyan krtakan) and “Eastern School Society” (Dprocasirac Arevelyan) in Chmshkatsag, “Artzn Society” (Artznyan), “Education Advocates” ( Usumnasirac), “Society of Reading Lovers” (Yntercasirac), “Sisakan” (Sisakan) in Erzerum, “Education Advocates” (Usumnasirac), in Brusa and others. The arrival of the foreign missionaries in Turkey considerably assisted this work, for they opened many kindergartens for both sexes as well as preparatory schools and colleges in the first period of their activity providing the Armenians with an alternative in the sphere of education.
There is no distinct statistical information about the Armenian kindergartens in the territory of the Ottoman Empire, but taking into account the fact, that they functioned mostly in nexus with schools and preparatory schools, we can conclude, that they formed a considerable number of ca. 100.
St. Hakob kindergarten of Kharberd, 1900s
The preparatory school and the pupils of the kindergarten of Feke, 1912
The kindergarten of Hovnanyan College in King Quarter of Rodosto, 1896
A group of the children from the kindergarten of Sourb Hreshtakapet Quarter in Adabazar, 1900s
A group of the children from the kindergarten of Sourb Hreshtakapet Quarter in Adabazar, 1912
The graduates of the education lover's kindergarten, 1904-1905
A group photograph of Gartash kindergarten, 1900s
A group of the children of Eotemeshi kindergarten, 1920
A group photograph of kindergarten of Talas "Azganver" association, 1900s
A group of the children of Eudocia (Tokat) kindergarten, 1910-1912
A group photograph of the kindergarten of Upper Quarter in Talas, 1914
A group photograph of the national kindergarten of the Armenian quarter Savayit in Amasia, 1904
A group photograph of the Armenian kindergarten of Amasia, 1910
A group photograph of the Armenian kindergarten of Amasia, 1912
The pupils of Bardizag kindergarten, 1895, ("Project save")
A group photograph of the kindergarten of Euphrates College, 1900s
A group photograph of the kindergarten of Kharberd, 1900s
A group photograph of the kindergarten of one the Armenian colleges in Yozgat, 1900s
The only surviving photo of Bandirma’s kindergarten graduation class (1915).
The roomful of “Happies were deported that summer.v All are believed to have perished except for the author (third row from top, right) then six years old.
Miss Zabelle, the teacher, presumably survived as she returned to Constantinople.