Mae Carden, “one of the outstanding educators in twentieth-century America,”1 was born December 16, 1894 in Honolulu, Hawaii, and died January 7, 1977 in Ridgewood, New Jersey. She was the youngest of the four children of John Joseph and Anna Diane (Woodard) Carden. At home she was called Sister.
Her interest in the education of children manifested itself early. When she was in second grade, she would bring home youngsters who were having difficulties in school. On the back porch of the family house on Fort Street, she spent many an afternoon tutoring some of her classmates in reading and arithmetic. This continued until her graduation from McKinley High School in 1911.
While she attended Vassar College, Mae Carden and her mother lived in Poughkeepsie, New York. After receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1918, she traveled and studied abroad. They spent about five years in Rome and a year in Paris. Their travels also took them to England, Scandinavia, Egypt, Palestine, and Greece. They returned to America to live, and Mae Carden received her Master of Arts degree from Teacher’s College, Columbia University, in 1927.
For a time she was head of the music department at Ann Reno Training School in New York City. From 1929 to 1934, she taught at the Whytehill School in New York. She had been interested in children from her childhood, and she had done valuable work with them. She wrote afterwards concerning these early years that she had “achieved an approach to child development which appeals to every thoughtful parent.”2
In October of 1934 she established a school in order to develop fully her own methods of instruction and particular practice of teaching. Thus Carden School opened in New York at 24 East 68th Street, and two years later moved to the brownstone residence at 43 East 67th Street. Here Mae Carden provided “an atmosphere of understanding and stimulating guidance” in which each child was “encouraged to unfold and develop his own personality.”3 This atmosphere, including her educational philosophy and teaching techniques, accompanied by materials for students and their teachers, came to be known as the CARDEN METHOD®—often expressed simply as Carden.
Under the pen name Marie Chardin, she wrote Moi, Je Sors, and Lisons for children in the 1930s. She wrote hundreds of books in English for teachers and students. In 1967 she wrote one for parents—Let’s Bring Them Up Sensibly.
The CARDEN METHOD® provided opportunities for the “natural unfolding of the mind, personality, and capacities” of every child. Carden schooling meant assurance of success for the youngster. Teachers from other schools began to learn her teaching methods under her guidance, adopt them as their own and use them in their teaching.
In 1949 she closed her school so that she could work more effectively with new schools. In 1963 she established the Carden Educational Foundation. This organization advances the curriculum today.
In time, parents and teachers established private schools using the CARDEN METHOD®. In some schools members of the fourth generation of a family are learning the Carden way.