Annie Wright School officials recently announced they are bringing an upper school for boys onto the all-female upper school campus. I am devastated and in shock how the decision was made.
When Annie Wright was founded in Tacoma in 1884, the founders, Bishop Paddock and Charles Wright, set the course with their vision:
“The school will provide education for the rising generation of daughters of the pioneers, children who will lay a firm foundation for the great state that is to be, a state which will require them to have kind, not callous hearts; joyous, not pampered spirits; broad, not petty minds; refined, not tawdry tastes; direct, not shifting speech — women who will meet wealth with simplicity, and poverty with dignity, and face life with quiet strength — developing from strength to strength; contributing to the righteous up-building of this great country.” (Charles Wright).
I attended Annie Wright for high school, and the all-inclusive female environment and opportunities are truly what helped fashion my backbone in becoming a strong woman of leadership.
The decision to bring an all-boys upper school to the same location as the girls will diminish and steal from the full experience, which only comes to a girl when she’s surrounded and placed in the unique environment that an all-girls structure can bring.
I have been in contact with hundreds of Annie Wright alumnae, and we all feel the sadness and shock. We mourn for the future girls at this school who will never get to experience just exactly what made Annie Wright special in the first place: an all-inclusive female learning and growing environment.
I along with many alumnae have been calling other classes that go all the way back to 1938. The running theme I am hearing is that this is the first they’ve heard about the change. If they had been contacted, they would have spoken up. So many alumnae were in the dark on this and not given a chance to use their voice on the issue.
Many are donors who give substantial amounts of money to Annie Wright for an all-girls school and are extremely upset they weren’t told their money would now be used for a boys upper school on the same campus. I spoke with a 95-year-old alumna today, and she is in shock.
In less than a week, we former alumnae have found each other and created a Facebook group where we can share workable solutions with the board of trustees to preserve the legacy of an all-girls upper school. We have 350 alumnae, and the group is growing as word gets out. We’ve sent a letter to the board and started a petition, asking the trustees to reconsider their decision.
I am not against an all-boys upper school, but it needs to be at a separate location. The freedom a girl feels and the internal growth that takes place in her formative years by not having the pressure of boys around is immeasurable.
We live in a male-dominated society, and Annie Wright officials want to take away what we held onto to help fashion female leaders of the future. But we who have attended Annie Wright will not stand down.
We will not let the sadness and dismay of this decision take away from what we are capable of doing now and in the future to positively impact our surroundings.
We will go from strength to strength and march boldly into whatever lies ahead of us and tackle it with grace and leadership, because after all, we’re Annies, and we fight for the good and the right.
Now is the time to step up, Annies. Now is the time to use the voice that we learned how to use when we attended an all-inclusive all-girls school.
Kelly Donahue is a Tacoma native who graduated with the class of 1998 at Annie Wright Schools. A former police officer, she now works as a bodyguard in Los Angeles.