Our Mission, Philosophy & History
The mission of The Agnes Irwin School is to foster the intellectual and personal growth of girls and young women. Agnes Irwin provides its students with a rigorous academic education and dedicates itself to developing each student's highest potential in intellect, character and physical well-being. Committed to being a diverse community that fosters self-confidence and respect for others, the school prepares each student to lead and to enrich the world.
At Agnes Irwin, we are open to possibility and understand that it presents itself in many forms. We believe in bringing a fresh and open perspective to teaching in order to prepare our students to take full advantage of all that tomorrow presents. We believe open-mindedness to diverse backgrounds, multiple perspectives and new ways of thinking creates a community rich with academic challenge and personal discovery. Our result is confident, motivated young women eager to be engaged citizens of the 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.