The question: Should Students Have to Wear School Uniforms? is alive and well in America today.  The adoption of uniforms by public schools is on the rise in many parts of the United States.

Schools with a student body consisting of 50% or more non-white kids are four times more likely to require uniform dress than schools with a minority base of 20-49% and twenty-four times more likely than a school with a white student population of 81-95%.

By 2008, 22 states had laws in place allowing local schools to decide on the issue of uniforms for students.

Early in 1913 this question was being debated in the city of Seattle, Washington – but only for girls.

Dress School Girls All Alike?

Shall Seattle put its high school girls a uniform dress?

Miss Ruth Shank thinks her simple dress should be adopted by all high school girls.

Miss Ruth Shank thinks her simple dress should be adopted by all high school girls.

A retiring the school board recently proposed it. The Federated women’s club has taken the matter up in discussion. Teachers in the schools favor the idea. Mothers have varying opinions.

In our grandmothers day it was not actually understood that the matter of dress might have a good deal of effect on the work of a high school girl or that it in any way affected her morals. Neither was understood that adenoids, removable by a simple and almost painless operation, made a dunce of a really smart child, or that scientific ventilation facilitated the work of students.

Ruth Shank, a pupil at Lincoln high school, is a disciple of simplicity in dress.

“I believe,” she said, “high school girls are trying to be more simple in their dress. They don’t wear loud or flashy clothes any more. But I think they should be even more simple. A uniform dress might be just the thing.”

An investigation in the New York schools have revealed the fact that many pupils are retarded to their studies because of petty jealousies aroused in matters of dress. Boys too, they say, pay too much attention to gaily the dressed girls.

Three Opinions

Adella Parker, instructor of civics and Broadway high school: I am decidedly not in sympathy with the uniform idea. This is an age of artistic development and individuality is greatly to be desired in the dress of a high school girl.

Atty. Leona W. Browne: If I had my way there be no frills in high school, and a plain gingham dress would be worn the year around. I am heartily in favor of a uniform dress a high school, but they don’t see how this can be accomplished very well. The man with a large family who earns $2 a day can’t possibly dress children as people in better circumstances want to dress theirs. It is unfair to both the poor man and the rich man. A plain Peter Tompkins or one-piece dress of some kind is my idea of the proper dress for high school girl.

Mrs. Helen N. Stevens: I would like to see uniform dress in the high schools, but I am also of the opinion that the ideal condition will have to be worked out through years of experience. Right now a crusade for simpler dress, I believe the right course.

Source: The Seattle Star, February 28, 1913 and The Day Book, April 08, 1913
Photo: Washington D.C. Public Schools: Western High School, Girls Rifle (Club?) in 1916