With the rich variety and abundance of independent elementary schools in Santa Cruz county, there had long been a dream of a comprehensive, non-sectarian, college-preparatory middle and high school to meet the needs of bright, motivated students in the community. Georgiana Bruce Kirby Preparatory School opened its doors in 1994 at a location in downtown Santa Cruz. In May of 2007 the school moved to its current location in the Harvey West Park area of Santa Cruz.
The school is named for Georgiana Bruce Kirby, a Santa Cruz pioneer who came to the community in 1850. She was a motivated and independent woman and a tireless advocate who worked vigorously toward her ideal of education and equality for all.
Georgiana Bruce Kirby was a person of intellect, an advocate of social justice, and pioneer homesteader in Santa Cruz. She lived a passionate, balanced life of the mind, the heart, and hands that was well before her times.
Georgiana Bruce, born in England in 1818, immigrated to the United States when she was just twenty. Living in Boston, she became fascinated with Transcendentalism, and in the 1840s spent four years at Brook Farm, a famous utopian community based on Transcendentalist ideals. There she met many of the great thinkers of her time, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Margaret Fuller.
After her stay at Brook Farm, Georgiana Bruce began a career in teaching and became active in the anti-slavery movement. She also worked with Eliza Farnham at Sing Sing prison, where the two women instituted significant, though controversial, reforms in the treatment and education of the female inmates. It was through Farnham, who had inherited property in California, that Georgiana Bruce found the opportunity to travel west. With funding from journalist and politician Horace Greeley, Bruce arrived in the isolated community of Santa Cruz in the summer of 1850.
In Santa Cruz, Georgiana Bruce met and married local businessman Richard Kirby, had five children, and created her own home and garden. She became a leading figure in the community and took up the causes of temperance and women’s suffrage, which she wrote about frequently in local and national papers. In 1869 she founded the first local society of Suffragists. Georgiana Bruce Kirby knew and collaborated with national women’s rights leaders such as Elizabeth Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.
Georgiana Bruce Kirby died in 1887 at the age of 68. Her memoirs, Years of Experience, were published the same year. Our school is proud to honor this pioneer, not only of the western frontier, but of the ever-present frontiers of education, enfranchisement and human dignity.