Thirty years ago, all-girl schools seemed headed for extinction, a minor footnote in the broad story of American education. Today they are experiencing an extraordinary renaissance. Between 1991 and 2001, more than 30 new girls’ schools opened throughout the United States in communities ranging from Harlem to Silicon Valley, Atlanta to Seattle.

Why this renewed interest in girls’ schools? What are they like today? And what were they like in the past -- what was the reality beneath the stereotype of the finishing school, the convent school, or the young ladies’ seminary? Award-winning journalist Ilana DeBare answers all these questions and more in this groundbreaking book. Where Girls Come First is the first comprehensive history of American girls’ schools, from the early 1800s through the present. It also recounts the story of DeBare’s own involvement helping start a new all-girl middle school in Oakland, California, in 1999 – the Julia Morgan School for Girls.

For more about Ilana DeBare, visit her blog.

Critical acclaim for Where Girls Come First

When I wrote Reviving Ophelia, I had never seen a girl's school. After its publication, I visited and spoke at dozens of them, including many discussed in this book. DeBare is able to capture their diversity, their problems, their historical and philosophical richness, and their magic. She blends scholarly and analytical writing with own personal experiences to create a fresh, powerful narrative. I couldn't put this book down.

— Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia and Letters to a Young Therapist

My own education at an all-girls high school helped give me the skills and confidence to be a leader. With vivid anecdotes and piercing insights, Ilana DeBare shows what girls’ schools have meant to countless generations of American women.

— Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senator from California

Where Girls Come First offers new insights into an important but overlooked segment of women's education - girls' schools. DeBare dispels stereotypes and uncovers fascinating stories. She offers an absorbing well researched history of girls schools, and frames thoughtful questions about the education of girls in contemporary society. This book is essential reading for anyone concerned with the education of girls and young women.

— Janet Holmgren, President of Mills College