An insight into the “Happy Birthday” tune

“Happy Birthday to You” is not an accidental success. It is not a traditional song nor did it appear ex nihilo. It originated with the Hill sisters, Patty and Mildred, and was first sung in a kindergarten classroom in Louisville, Kentucky in the late 19th century, back when kindergarten was a social experiment. Patty Smith Hill was a leader in America’s Progressive education movement and some credit her with developing the kindergarten we have today. Patty studied with John Dewey — high priest of American Pragmatism — at the University of Chicago, and completed an illustrious career as professor emeritus at Columbia University. But she started in Louisville, convinced of the importance of an early childhood education that was interactive, social, democratic, and free of cost.

Stefany Anne Golberg, “It’s your birthday”, The Smart Set (from Drexel University), 19 July 2010.

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