Virginia Randolph Ellett, or “Miss Jennie” as she was affectionately known, was the founder and headmistress of St. Catherine’s School for nearly five decades.
In the 1890s, Virginia Randolph Ellett strongly believed that girls were capable of higher education. The School today carries the same timeless ideals of intellectual rigor and joy in learning. Just as Miss Jennie designed the early curriculum that was at once classical and revolutionary, our teachers continue her legacy of innovative teaching and experiential learning today.
As early as 1895 the Virginia Randolph Ellett School was recognized by Bryn Mawr as a school whose graduates were qualified for college work. Her advancements enabled Richmond to become one of only eight cities in the world where College Entrance Board Exams were given annually to women. With a curriculum described at the time as being “at once classical and revolutionary,” Miss Jennie’s school was the first in Richmond to send girls to college.
In 1917, the school was incorporated and moved to its present site in the Westhampton area of Richmond. It was sold to the Episcopal Church in 1920 and renamed for St. Catherine, the patron saint of young women. Miss Jennie, who had relinquished her headship some years before, continued to teach and live at the school until her death in 1939.