Image courtesy of Western High School Foundation.

Western High School, the oldest all-girl public high school in the United States, will hold its 175th Anniversary “Shine the Light” Gala at 7 p.m. on April 29.

The Cross Keys-area school, founded in 1844 in downtown Baltimore, will celebrate the school’s past and present with an online gala.

The event will include music and theater performances, an art auction, documentary viewing, and cocktail/mocktail demonstrations. Tickets are free and can be reserved at

The event will also feature a slate of special guests, including actor, director, playwright, scholar and activist Anna Deavere Smith; Dr. Nancy S. Grasmick, the long-serving former Maryland State Superintendent of Schools and current scholar in residence at Towson University; and Dr. Carla Hayden, the 14th Librarian of Congress, who is the first Black person and first woman to serve in the role. Grasmick and Smith are both Western High School alumnae, having graduated from their alma mater in 1957 and 1967, respectively.

Hayden, who served as CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library from 1993 to 2016, said she was inspired by Western students and alumnae during her time in Baltimore.

“Nearly the moment I stepped into Baltimore to lead Enoch Pratt, I met powerhouse Western alums in business, government and community service. Even more inspiring were the current Western girls — brimming with determination to learn and to lead,” Hayden said in a statement.

Gala co-chairs Christine McKee and Lee Kappelman said the event will be both fun and educational.

“As Western girls, we know that determination doesn’t mean dull. Yes, we want you to learn about our iconic school, but just as important these days, you will be entertained,” McKee and Kappelman said in a statement.

The gala will feature some of Smith’s work, and she will interact with current Western students.

The event will also showcase and auction works by visual artist Espi Frazier, who recently retired from teaching at the Friends School of Baltimore.

Frazier’s Red Queen Wall Hanging will be auctioned; her beaded crochet shawl will be raffled; and her limited-edition, signed, black and white church lady prints will be sold for $175 to mark the school’s anniversary. Proceeds from those works will benefit the Western High School Foundation’s initiatives for the school.

“Espi was such an inspiration to Friends students for 27 years, and we love collaborating with Western High School. Our faculty, student and alumni families will be there on April 29th to cheer on Espi and Western!” Friends School head Matt Micciche said in a statement.

Attendees will be able to view archival items, including an early 1900s white graduation dress and antique lace-up boots worn by Western girls, as historic footage and alumnae recollections of their time at the school.

Isis Carter, a 2020 Western High School graduate, first recipient of the Blum Scholarship for Social Justice, and a current Goucher College student, will receive special recognition in conversation with the scholarship founder Carolyn Patty Blum, a 1967 Western graduate and U.C. Berkley School of Law professor emeritus.

Downtown Kevin Brown, co-owner of Nancy by SNAC, and Betsy Wendell, owner of Octavia Boutique in Cross Keys, will demonstrate how to make cocktails and mocktails.

People who donate $175 or more to Western High School Foundation will receive party kits.

One reply on “Western High School, America’s oldest all-girl public high school, to celebrate 175th anniversary virtually”

  1. I am a Proud 1980 Graduate of Western. I would love to work on this particular committee or Board

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