Chalkboard champion Katherine Devereux Blake was born in Manhattan, New York, on July 10, 1858. She was the daughter of well-known pioneer suffragist, newspaper correspondent, and novelist Lillie Devereux Blake.
Katherine earned her college degree in 1876 from what later became Hunter College. Following her graduation, she began her career as a public school teacher in New York City. In 1894 she was appointed the principal of the Girls Department of Public School 6. This school was renamed the Lillie Devereux School in 1916. Katherine served PS 6 as its principal for 34 years, until her retirement in 1927.
Throughout her career as an educator, Katherine Blake used her influence to champion causes that benefited both teachers and students. She promoted improvements in classroom lighting and sanitation, the reform of school textbooks, and night school for women. In addition, she was actively involved in the National Education Association (NEA). She served on a number of committees that promoted teacher benefits, good relationships between public schools and the NEA, and the election of women to the New York Board of Education. Katherine was one of nineteen teachers selected to accompany Dr. John Dewey on his official visit to Russia in 1928.
Not only was Katherine Blake an outstanding educator, but she was also a journalist, a suffragist, and an active peace activist. During her summer vacations from 1911-1919, she campaigned for women’s suffrage in California, New York, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, West Virginia, New Jersey, and Connecticut. In New York, she was the leader of nearly 15,000 teachers who worked for women’s suffrage. In the 1915 parade sponsored by the Woman Suffrage Association, Katherine marched at the front of nearly 500 teachers.
Katherine Blake was also an active and outspoken peace activist. She was a member of the Ford Peace Expedition in 1915-1916, and she also served as the New York Chair of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She was the chief spokesperson for the Disarmament Caravan, which toured 9,000 miles in 1931 to carry a disarmament petition to President Herbert Hoover and to the International Disarmament Conference in Geneva. The petition was comprised of nearly seven million signatures. Katheirne went to Geneva repeatedly to attend the League of Nations Assembly as a newspaper correspondent, and in 1938 she traveled abroad to study refugee problems.
This remarkable woman and chalkboard champion passed away on February 2, 1950, in St. Louis, Missouri.