In 1886, in the parlor of Mrs. G.F. Durant’s home at 2329 Whittemore Place, fifteen courageous and determined Unitarian women took a stand for the most impoverished children in their city. No longer would mothers tote babies to work, or leave them in the care of their barely older siblings. These women founded, in the quaint language of their time, a “day nursery” whose mission was “to prevent pauperism by assisting bread winners with young children on their hands, to earn an honest living.” In their first year, they cared for hundreds of children whose parents worked in factories, cleaned homes, did laundry and cared for other people’s children. From the beginning, South Side Day Nursery, as it was known then, welcomed children of every race, ethnicity, and income level.

SouthSide’s founders knew their work benefited the families they served and had economic impact that benefited the entire community. In the second Annual Report, the President, Mrs. C. M. Woodward, wrote, “Every dollar spent at the Nursery means from one to three dollars earned by the mother while her little one is in our care. But that is not all. Every mother receives her child at night happy, clean and in excellent physical condition.”

Remarkably, SouthSide’s work continued in its original building at 10th and Julia Streets for more than 60 years, when the organization moved to the current facility at 2930 Iowa Avenue. SouthSide continued to be a leader in early childhood education that addressed social-emotional and cognitive development in a holistic and nurturing setting, along with resources and support for parents and caregivers.

Highlights of our history include:

1886 Founding of South Side Day Nursery
1888 Incorporated as a non-profit, non-sectarian agency
1890 Purchased house at 10th and Julia
1942 Joined United Charities – predecessor of the United Fund and United Way
1953 New facility opened at 2930 Iowa Avenue
1956 Joined United Fund (became United Way)
1967 Classroom and meeting room addition to building
1967 Partnership with Washington University trained teachers for Head Start
1969-1976 Operated Cochran Branch early childhood center, known as North Side Day Nursery
1979-1981 Two classrooms added to building
1999 Infant-toddler room opened
2011 Marked 125th Anniversary. Purchased site for new facility at Russell and Jefferson; began capital campaign.

SouthSide continues the vision of its founders. Thousands of children have passed through our doors, lovingly cared for, educated and launched toward success.


2001 What’s Right with the Region: Creating Quality Educational Opportunities
2002 Lifetime Board Member Carolyn Cotta was honored as the Commerce Bank Volunteer of the Year
2008-2012 Deaconess Foundation Impact Partner
2010 Variety Club Stellar Performer in Early Childhood Education