Philadelphia High School for Girls

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Philadelphia High School for Girls
Philly HS for Girls.jpg
Philadelphia High School for Girls
1400 West Olney Avenue


United States
Coordinates 40°02′18″N75°08′46″W / 40.038342°N 75.146066°W / 40.038342; -75.146066 Coordinates: 40°02′18″N75°08′46″W / 40.038342°N 75.146066°W / 40.038342; -75.146066
Former names
  • Girls' Normal School (1848–1854)
  • Girls' High School of Philadelphia (1854–1860)
  • Girls' High and Normal School (1860–1893)
Type Public college preparatory magnet school
MottoVincit qui se vincit
(She conquers who conquers herself)
Established1848;174 years ago (1848)
School district School District of Philadelphia
PrincipalLisa M. Mesi
Staff42.20 (FTE) [1]
Grades 912
Gender Girls
Enrollment843 (2018–19) [1]
Student to teacher ratio19.98 [1]
Color(s)   White and Yellow

The Philadelphia High School for Girls, also known as Girls' High, is a public college 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 Normal School Sergeant Street above Ninth Philadelphia PA (1853).jpg
Girls Normal School, Sergeant St. above 9th, 1853
Girls High School, 17th and Spring Garden Sts., 1876 Girls High School Cor Seventeenth and Spring Garden Streets Philadelphia PA (1876).jpg
Girls High School, 17th and Spring Garden Sts., 1876
New Girls Normal School, 13th and Spring Garden Sts., 1893 New Girls Normal School NW Cor Thirteenth and Spring Garden Streets Philadelphia PA (1893).jpg
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 Masterman School Philly.JPG
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.


Additional school events

School song

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 seals

Notable alumnae

Notable faculty

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