Our Mission & History
The Agnes Irwin School empowers girls to learn, to lead, and to live a legacy.
Agnes Irwin provides girls with a deep foundation in the humanities, mathematics and science, wellness and athletics. In an inclusive setting that values diversity, students develop skills in critical and analytical thinking, self-expression, effective communication, and collaboration. A rich and varied approach to instruction, team and individual endeavors, inquiry, and assessment enables girls to solve problems, design solutions, create meaning, and prepare for a complex and challenging world.
We believe that all girls and young women have the capacity to lead and that leadership can take many forms. Therefore, through our instruction, our community interactions, and our daily choices, we affirm this belief and provide an environment that challenges girls to develop the core values of leadership: empathy, integrity, resilience, independent thinking, and commitment to action.
TO LIVE A LEGACY
Agnes Irwin students are a part of the global community of girls and women. They are also the trustees of our School’s heritage and traditions. By adopting values that foster equity, justice, social responsibility, civic mindedness, and integrity, and by nurturing positive relationships and intentional decision making, our students and alumnae engage in bold and meaningful ways to impact our interconnected world.
Founded in 1869 by Miss Agnes Irwin, the great-great granddaughter of Benjamin Franklin, our school was one of the first in the United States devoted to the education of girls and young women. As a young headmistress (age 28), Miss Irwin wanted to create an institution that emphasized "disciplined and precise thinking," where girls could flourish in a traditional curriculum that ranged from English, modern and classical languages to history, mathematics and science.
Miss Irwin valued scholarship, and prepared her students to sit for examinations that Harvard University offered to certify women for teaching. When Bryn Mawr College was founded, she revised the curriculum to better prepare her students for admission there as well.
In 1894, Miss Irwin left the school to become the first Dean of Students at Radcliffe College, but the rich heritage and legacy of a challenging curriculum and independent thinking for girls and young women had been cemented and continues at Agnes Irwin today.
After more than 60 years in Center City Philadelphia (1869-1933), the school moved to its Wynnewood campus along the city’s Main Line, and finally onto its current campus in Rosemont in 1961. The school has been led by 12 headmistresses, including Miss Irwin’s younger sister, Sophy Dallas Irwin, and several other notable women through the decades.