Empowering girls. Inspiring Women.

When the West Penn Square Seminary for Young Ladies opened in Philadelphia on September 22, 1869, a young headmistress named Agnes Irwin was determined to turn it into an institution of academic excellence. 


ow, 150 years later, The Agnes Irwin School continues Miss Irwin's vision by providing a rigorous, all-girls' education that has produced a legacy of inspiring women for generations. Our landmark anniversary has something for everyone — engaging speakers, inspiring conferences, unforgettable parties — and will be one for the history books! Check back often to learn more about our celebration of 150 years of empowering girls, and inspiring women!

Our History

We've been empowering girls since 1869. Browse through Agnes Irwin's history — from the early days in Center City, to our beautiful 26-acre campus in Rosemont — and meet a few of the notable women who have walked our halls along the way.   


At just 28, Agnes Irwin, the great-great granddaughter of Benjamin Franklin, becomes head of the West Penn Square Seminary for Young Ladies. She had a vision for the school (later called The Agnes Irwin School) that would make educating girls its mission.


“West Penn Square Seminary for Young Ladies” becomes “Miss Irwin’s of Philadelphia.” It was one of the first schools devoted entirely to girls' education in the U.S.


The School moves from the Irwins' family residence at 19th and Spruce to 2011 Delancey Place.


Sophy Dallas Irwin, Agnes Irwin’s sister, becomes Headmistress.


The Alumnae Association is formed to promote "a feeling of kinship to the school, and foster and extend school spirit."


Anne Shirk, Class of 1911, forms the Athletic Association. The school is divided into blue and gold teams for athletic competitions. First extramural game played.


After the deaths of Agnes Irwin and her sister, Sophy, Josephine A. Natt becomes the school's headmistress and renames it The Agnes Irwin School. She chooses the school's emblem, inspired by Sophy Irwin's old bookplate, featuring a drawing of her ancient Mediterranean oil lamp.


Ms. Natt, along with the sophomore class, decides to feature the school emblem on the class ring. This ring is now presented to students on Sophomore Day.


Bertha Laws, Class of 1897, succeeds Natt as Headmistress.


The Agnes Irwin School relocates to the Isaac B. Clothier estate in Wynnewood.


Standard uniforms are introduced, with a choice of four colors. The Agnes Irwin School receives accreditation from the Middle States Association of College and Secondary Schools.


The first May Fair is held to raise money for war orphans — although the Maypole dances aren't introduced until nine years later, by Lucetta Sharp Alderfer. "She used carpet binding to strengthen and stiffen the ribbons before dying the reinforced ribbons blue and gold."


Anne Farr Bartol and Edith M. Murphy are named Associate Headmistresses.


The Agnes Irwin School relocates to its current location in Rosemont.


Anne Stouffer Lenox becomes Headmistress.


The wise old owl is chosen as the school mascot, a suggestion from Patty Pittman, Class of 1963. Today the owl is known as Gus.


The first Medieval Day — later to be known as Medieval Night — is held. First Special Studies Program takes place for sophomore and junior classes, an idea conceived by Associate Headmistress Adele Griffin Sands.


Adele Griffin Sands becomes Headmistress.


Mary Kessler becomes Headmistress. Full-day kindergarten initiated. The Community Service Program begins.


Margaret Penney Moss becomes Headmistress. During her term, the title is changed to Head of School.


The Agnes Irwin School chapter of The Cum Laude Society is formed, and its first students inducted.


The Blue and Gold Society is launched in recognition of leadership support of The Agnes Irwin School.


The Laurel Society, recognizing planned gift arrangements, established by Class of 1953 members Annabelle Pierson Irey and Mary Pat McPhearson. 


Martha Cutts becomes Head of School. First PreKindergarten class begins. First Agnes Irwin School/Episcopal Academy (AIS/EA) Day of athletic competition is held. 


Helen Marter becomes Head of School.


Mary Seppala becomes Head of School.


On October 14, 2011 The Agnes Irwin School officially launches the Center for the Advancement of Girls.

Read more about CAG 


Dr. Wendy Hill becomes Head of School.


The Innovation Team, or iTeam, is formed in order to further integrate innovation, project-based learning, and interdisciplinary instruction into classroom practices.

150th Celebration Events

On-Campus Events

Agnes Irwin has been empowering girls and inspiring women since 1869 — we invite you to celebrate with us throughout the year on our Rosemont campus!  

Founder's Day Weekend
September 20-22, 2019

 Discovering Your Purpose Conference
October 12, 2019

 Forevermore: A Tribute to Faculty & Staff
March 18, 2020

 Alumnae Weekend & Closing Ceremonies
May 1-3, 2020

Regional Events

It's going to be an incredible year — and we are celebrating with fellow Owls in cities across the country!  

Celebrating the 150th Throughout 2019-2020

Let's keep the momentum going all year long — participate in two great programs that will connect you with your fellow Owls and make a difference in the community in which you live.  Learn more here.

Stay Tuned!

The co-chairs of Agnes Irwin's Sesquicentennial Celebration, along with the chairs of our regional and on-campus events, are hard at work behind-the-scenes! We will have more announcements on inspiring speakers, details on each event, and a special store dedicated to commemorative AIS 150th swag that will be the talk of the town. Please email AIS150@agnesirwin.org with any questions along the way.

The love we bear for thee is love that hath no end.