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Celebrating Shortridge High School

Recently, we were contacted by a patron who wanted to know about items in our collection related to Shortridge High School in Indianapolis, and whether we would be interested in putting together an exhibit about it. We thought that was a great idea, so I got to work researching Shortridge and looking through our collection. The exhibit celebrates the beginning of public education in Indiana with a provision in the 1851 State Constitution and the establishment of the Indianapolis High School (later renamed Shortridge) in 1864. Shortridge High School would become an innovator in public education, creating projects like the Shortridge Daily Echo, the first and longest running daily high school newspaper in the country, and a highly influential Senate program, in which students debated about political themes of the day.  

Shortridge_Donnan
Indiana Historical Society, M0482 Box 23, Folder 20

One of my favorite characters from the early days of Shortridge is Laura Donnan. Born in 1854, Donnan spent most of her life in Indianapolis. At Shortridge, she taught such diverse subjects as Latin, history and geometry. A wonderful photograph of Donnan as coach of the Shortridge girls basketball team is included in the exhibit. She was the first sponsor of the Echo and also founded the Senate program. One student wrote of her, 

“Her specialty was civil government, and everyone but the dullest emerged from her classroom with the keenest and most lasting understanding of the meaning and obligations of citizenship. […] She was vigorous and vivid in her teaching, and her voice, though ordinarily warm and pleasant, had at times a booming quality which made her somewhat formidable. ... She was not only a teacher, she was a Personality.”

Aside from Laura Donnan, many others made Shortridge an extraordinarily successful public institution, and the school produced several well-known alumni over the years. I hope you’ll drop by to see the exhibit, and that it encourages you to delve further into our collections and discover more inspiring figures and stories from Indiana’s past.