Girls Preparatory School

The Girls Preparatory School is the largest independent secondary day school for girls in the country. Three highly respected public school teachers established the school in 1906. Tommie Duffy, a history and science specialist, Eula Jarnagin, a language teacher, and Grace McCallie, a mathematician, petitioned the Chattanooga School Board to allow girls to take college preparatory courses. When their initial attempts were rebuffed, the women took matters into their own hands.

The three women pooled three hundred dollars, bought used desks, and transformed McCallie's Oak Street house into a school for girls and a home for themselves. They hired Chloe Thompson to teach English and opened the school with forty-five students; their curriculum required daily physical activity as well as classroom studies.

After ten years at the Oak Street address, they moved to a larger building on Palmetto Street. Following the death of McCallie in 1918, Duffy and Jarnagin continued to guide the school until the mid-1940s, when GPS was turned over to a board of trustees, who acquired the present site in north Chattanooga. In 1991 GPS was designated a National School of Excellence.

Students no longer answer “present” to a daily roll call, memorize Bible verses, or recite the kings of England. They do take a full range of college preparatory courses, though, and 99 percent of graduates continue their studies at four-year colleges and universities. The “school walks” and basketball of early days have given way to thirteen varsity sports and frequent district, regional, and state championships. The yearbook, student newspaper, and May Day remain strong traditions and are supplemented by sixty other extracurricular activities.

The founders' original mission–to educate girls for “useful lives in their careers, homes, and communities by instilling a lifelong love of learning and the importance of honesty, integrity, and consideration for others”–remains the same.

Citation Information

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  • Article Title Girls Preparatory School
  • Author
  • Website Name Tennessee Encyclopedia
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  • Access Date July 12, 2024
  • Publisher Tennessee Historical Society
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 1, 2018