About Spence

History

Clara Spence, a visionary educator, founded her school for girls in 1892, welcoming ten students to a brownstone on West 48th Street in New York City. These girls were among the first to benefit from Clara Spence’s firm belief that higher education for women was of paramount importance. The outside world of politics, the arts, and the community was embraced in her school and from the beginning Spence girls developed a keen sense of self-confidence and assumed their roles as significant members of the community. Clara Spence died in 1923 after leading her school for 31 years.

More than a century has passed since she founded her school. Thousands of girls have benefited from her moral and intellectual strengths and her founding principles—a challenging education to enrich intellect, build character and strengthen the spirit. These principles, summed up in the school motto, “Not for school but for life we learn,” have defined a Spence education throughout its long history. 

Take a look below for a collection of photographs from Spence  from the 1929 move to 91st Street to today. For more information about Spence history, check out our Retrospectives stories in the sidebar.

Spence Through the Decades

“A place not of mechanical instruction, but a school of character where the common requisites for all have been human feeling, a sense of humor and the spirit of intellectual and moral adventure”


—Clara Spence