Philadelphia High School for Girls

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Philadelphia High School for Girls
Philly HS for Girls.jpg
Philadelphia High School for Girls is located in Philadelphia
Philadelphia High School for Girls
Philadelphia High School for Girls
Philadelphia High School for Girls is located in Pennsylvania
Philadelphia High School for Girls
Philadelphia High School for Girls
Philadelphia High School for Girls is located in the United States
Philadelphia High School for Girls
Philadelphia High School for Girls
1400 West Olney Avenue


Coordinates40°02′18″N 75°08′46″W / 40.038342°N 75.146066°W / 40.038342; -75.146066Coordinates: 40°02′18″N 75°08′46″W / 40.038342°N 75.146066°W / 40.038342; -75.146066
TypePublic university-preparatory magnet school
MottoLatin: Vincit Qui Se Vincit
(She conquers, who conquers herself)
School districtSchool District of Philadelphia
PrincipalDr. Parthenia Moore
Staff42.70 (FTE)[1]
Enrollment983 (2017–18)[1]
Student to teacher ratio23.02[1]
Color(s)          White and Yellow

The Philadelphia High School for Girls, also known as Girls' High, is a public university-preparatory magnet high school for girls in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. As its name suggests, the school's enrollment is all female.

Established in 1848, it was one of the first public schools for women. It is a magnet school in the School District of Philadelphia with a competitive admissions process. Vincit qui se vincit (she conquers who conquers herself) is the school’s motto. The school is located at Broad Street and Olney Avenue in the Logan section of Philadelphia.


Girls Normal School, Sergeant St. above 9th, 1853
Girls High School, 17th and Spring Garden Sts., 1876
New Girls Normal School, 13th and Spring Garden Sts., 1893
The previous Girls' High campus, now Julia R. Masterman School, which housed the school from 1933 to 1958

In 1848, the Girls' Normal School was established as the first secondary public school for women in Pennsylvania. It was also the first municipally supported teachers' school in the U.S. The first instructional session was held on February 1, 1848. By June 1848, there were 149 enrolled students, an incredibly large enrollment for a school at that time. The school continued to grow, forcing a move in 1854 to Sergeant Street between Ninth and Tenth Streets.

In April 1854, the name of the school was changed to the Girls' High School of Philadelphia. By June 1860, 65 graduates had received diplomas bearing the Girls' High School name. In 1860, the name of the school was again changed to The Girls' High and Normal School to better define the "design of the institution" as a school for an education confined to academic subjects and for future teachers.

In October 1876, a new school which "for convenience and comfort will probably have no superior" was constructed at Seventeenth and Spring Garden Streets. At the time it was surpassed in size only by Girard College and the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1893, the High School and Normal School were separated into two distinct institutions. It was at this time that the institution became known as the Philadelphia High School for Girls. The school offered three parallel courses: a general course of three years with a possible postgraduate year, a classical course of four years, and a business course of three years. In 1898, a Latin-Scientific course "was designed to prepare students for the Women's Medical College, Cornell, Vassar, Wellesley, Smith, Barnard, or such courses in the University of Pennsylvania as were open to women."

In the early 1930s, the school survived attempts to merge it with William Penn High School. Alumnae, faculty and friends of the school dedicated themselves to its preservation. The school emerged from this crisis with its current identity as a place for the education of academically talented young women.

In 1933, a new school was erected at Seventeenth and Spring Garden Streets to replace the one which had stood on the site since 1876. This historic building, now the site of Julia R. Masterman School, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

In May 1976, Vice Principal Dr. Florence Snite sued Katherine Day for libel because she had organized a demonstration protesting the administration's policy which barred lesbian alumnae from attending the prom.[2]

In 1958, the school again outgrew its location and moved to its current site at Broad Street and Olney Avenue. Located down the street at Ogontz and Olney Avenue is Central High School, which, until 1983, was an all-male school. Prior to Central turning co-educational, the two schools enjoyed a strong partnership.

Graduating classes at Girls' are known not by class year (e.g., "the class of 2008") but rather by class number (e.g., "the 252nd graduating class"). This is because of the former practice of semiannual graduation. As annual graduations were instituted, the practice of referring to class numbers remained.

Many fine traditions have survived Girls' long history. Annual celebrations include Contest and County Fair. Graduation traditions also continue. Girls' High graduations were formerly held at the Academy of Music. Currently, they are held at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. Students wear white dresses no higher than knee length and carry red flowers. The students purchase their own dresses in any style but the rules of color and length are enforced.

Due to budget cuts, Girls' High will now be losing staff including counselors in the 2013-14 school year. Also, some clubs may be eliminated from the school.

As of 1984, Girls' High had the unique distinction of being the only high school in the U.S. to have had three graduates selected as White House Fellows since the program was started by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.

In 2000, the school had its first Million Dollar Scholar. She received a perfect grade-point average and was offered $1 million in college scholarships.


  • Big Sister, Little Sister – Seniors are paired with incoming freshmen and act as their "big sisters". The "big sisters" provide transitional support to their "little sisters".
  • Freshman Day, Sophomore Day, Junior Day – Each class is given a day to honor it. Students of the honored class generally sport flowers in their class color, host an auditorium show, and have a tea or other social gathering.
  • Senior Day – Graduating seniors are given awards for their academic and extracurricular achievements. After the awards ceremony they have lunch, often on the Spirit of Philadelphia or at the Chart House.
  • Contest – started in 1913 and has evolved over the years. The seniors and freshmen team up to compete against the sophomores and juniors in a variety of competitions that span a few weeks.
  • County Fair – A schoolwide all-afternoon fair in which each advisory class contributes food, games, and entertainment. All the money earned during county fair is given to a charity of choice by the winning advisory.
  • Songs of the Season – The school's holiday show. The program begins with the procession of members of the school's Treble Clef Choir through a completely dark auditorium. Each choir member carries a single lit candle and chants "Hodie Christus Natus Est" by Benjamin Britten. The show continues with holiday performances by the school's various extracurricular groups and ethnic clubs. Jill Scott (a Girls' High alumna) made an appearance at Songs of the Season in 2006.
  • Career Day – Alumnae return for a day to give presentations about their careers.
  • Holiday Open House – Every year, alumnae return to the school for a Holiday Open House. This is held in the pink marble hall with the Nike of Samothrace or Winged Victory, which is the symbol of Girls' High, at one of the hallway and Abraham Lincoln at the other.
  • All Alumnae Reunion Luncheon/Meeting – Alumnae from all class years gather together to network with each other. The guest speaker is usually a distinguished alumna. There is also a performance by a student group.
  • Graduation – ceremony at the Academy of Music, and now at the Kimmel Center. All graduates wear white dresses and carry a bouquet of red carnations.

Additional school events

  • Father-Daughter Dance
  • Winter Dinner Formal
  • Soph Hop
  • Junior Prom
  • Senior Prom
  • Zero Day
  • Junior Book Awards
  • Move Up Day

School song[edit]

The school song has two parts. Alma Mater was written by Grade Gordon (1906) with music by F. Edna Davis (1906). Fidelitas was written by Emily Loman in June 1915.[3]

School uniforms[edit]

Beginning in 2019, students are required to wear school uniforms of any pant, skirt, or skirts(no cut, rips, see through material and mid thigh) with either a white polo with school logo or a "spirit shirt" (has the school name and/or logo; available in the school store).

School seals[edit]

Notable alumnae[edit]

Notable faculty[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Girls HS". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
  2. ^ HQ75. P55x. Philadelphia Gay News. January 3, 1976 – March 25, 1978. Vol. 1. No. 1 – Vol. 2. No. 6. Special Collections Research Center in Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  3. ^ "School Songs." Philadelphia High School for Girls.
  4. ^ "Girls High Alumnae News – Alumnae Association of the Philadelphia High School for Girls". Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  5. ^ "Representative Vanessa Lowery Brown - PA House of Representatives". 21 June 2017.
  6. ^ "Buntzie Ellis Churchill Biography - California". wirewrite. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  7. ^ "Sandra Lee Strokoff | GW Law | The George Washington University". Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  8. ^ Creese, Mary R. S. (1998). Ladies in the Laboratory? American and British Women in Science, 1800-1900: A Survey of Their Contributions to Research. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-3287-9.
  9. ^ Stone, Witmer (2 December 1932). "Ida Augusta Keller (1866-1932)". Bartonia (14): 59–60. Retrieved 30 October 2014.

General reference[edit]

External links[edit]