The oldest private school in Memphis is St. Mary’s Episcopal School. It has operated continuously since its founding in 1847, and during most of its existence the school has been exclusively for girls.
During the Civil War, Headmistress Mary Foote Pope moved the school, along with many of its students, to Mississippi to await the end of hostilities. The Sisters of St. Mary’s, an order of Episcopal nuns, directed the school from 1873 to 1910. Four of them and two priests, known collectively as the “Martyrs of Memphis,” died while caring for yellow fever victims during an 1878 epidemic. As Thomas F. Gailor, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee, observed in 1901, the school never succumbed to “the mere social veneering which some people call ‘the education of girls.'” (1)
The school was located first at Calvary Episcopal Church and then successively at St. Mary’s Cathedral in a building at 1257 Poplar Avenue, and at Grace-St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. It moved to its present location at Church of the Holy Communion in 1953.
St. Mary’s currently has an enrollment of approximately eight hundred girls in prekindergarten through the twelfth grade. It is noted for the highest academic and moral standards and a tradition of service to the community.