Filed Under Education

Annie Laws – Philanthropist of Reading Road

“Possibly no woman who has ever lived in Cincinnati has been so active in so many interests of the very life of the city as has Miss Annie Laws.” There is no exaggeration in this quote from Mary MacMillan. Annie Laws dedicated herself to the expansion of healthcare and education for all Cincinnatians, creating kindergartens, nursing, and teaching schools. Several institutions still operating in Cincinnati find their origin in Laws’ philanthropic endeavors.

Annie Laws was born in Cincinnati in 1855 to Sarah Laws and James H. Laws, a merchant. She grew up at 218 Dayton Street in the West End and attended Miss Appleton’s School, which was located at Plum and MacFarland Streets downtown. The school was perhaps the most prestigious in Cincinnati for a time, and Eugene Bliss remarked in 1891 that should a list of pupils be published, “the names of all the families prominent in the city for the last forty years would be found in it.” No doubt, Miss Appleton’s prepared Annie Laws well for her work.

In her adult life, Annie Laws lived with her sister Alice at 2927 Reading Road in Avondale. She used her house on Reading as a meeting place for the associations and organizations she led. For example, Laws held meetings at her home for the Cincinnati Visiting Nurse Association, which provided trained nurses for those unable to afford assistance during illness.

In 1879, 24-year-old Annie Laws founded the Cincinnati Kindergarten Association to provide early childhood education to Cincinnati children. The Kindergarten Association created a free kindergarten on Linton Street in 1880, just around the corner from Laws’ home, and a school for teachers was also created in the same year. Laws also helped found the Cincinnati Women’s Club in 1894. In 1888, Laws and other local women founded the Cincinnati Training School for Nurses. Laws was also the first female member of the Cincinnati Board of Education (1912-1916), elected before women won the right to vote in 1920. The nursing and teaching schools Laws founded are today the College of Nursing and Health and the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services at the University of Cincinnati, making her the only woman to found two colleges of the University.

A full description of Annie Law’s endeavors could fill a book of its own. To name a few, she was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, president of the Columbian Exposition Association of Cincinnati, and sang in the May Festival Chorus.

Laws passed away at her home on Reading Road in July 1927, and is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery. She left her property, valued at $52,000, and “entire estate” to her sister Alice, who was herself very involved in initiatives around the city. In death, Laws was remembered as a well-loved and -respected figure in the Cincinnati community. Her obituary in the Cincinnati Enquirer memorialized her as a servant-leader who “lived for others,” “helped to make the world brighter and better,” and shone with “the aura of goodness … about her.”


Annie Laws
Annie Laws Source: University of Cincinnati Libraries
1904 Sanborn Map showing Laws’ home 2927 Reading Road
1904 Sanborn Map showing Laws’ home 2927 Reading Road Source: Library of Congress
Creator: Highlight made by Brenden Pulte


2927 Reading Road, Cincinnati Ohio


Llewellyn Grant and Jake Berry, Brenden Pulte

, “Annie Laws – Philanthropist of Reading Road,” Cincinnati Sites and Stories, accessed July 18, 2024,