Cora Wilson Stewart Moonlight School

cora wilson stewart moonlight school photo


East First St.
Morehead KY 40351

Adult literacy education was born here.

Its founder, Rowan County native Cora Wilson Stewart, began teaching elementary school in 1895 at age 20, progressing to become the first woman elected superintendent of Rowan County Schools, the first female president of the Kentucky Education Association, the director of the National Illiteracy Crusade, the chairwoman of President Herbert Hoover’s Commission on Education, and a delegate to the 1920 Democratic Convention.

She was even nominated as President of the United States.

Her passion was education, and more specifically, helping adults learn to read and write. Becoming aware of the magnitude of adult illiteracy, particularly in rural Kentucky, she founded the Moonlight Schools movement. She recruited volunteer instructors and began teaching adults to read and write on September 5, 1911, using the same one-room schoolhouses where children learned by day, like the one you see here. She developed a series of adult literacy books and materials to assist in her efforts, including a reading primer, “The Soldier’s First Book,” to teach military recruits to read during World War II.

Stewart, who attended Morehead Normal School (which later became Morehead State University) and the University of Kentucky, expected the Moonlight Schools movement to progress slowly. But she and her volunteers were overwhelmed when more than 1,200 men and women between the ages of 18 and 86 enrolled on the first night of the program.

Moonlight Schools would become an international movement.

Stewart passed away at the age of 83 in a nursing home, after glaucoma took her eyesight.

General Information
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