Charlotte Belle Emerson Keith, born in 1865 to Adaline (Talcott) and Ralph Emerson, was commonly known as Belle. Her father was a well-known industrialist and philanthropist.
Keith exhibited an interest in art at an early age, studying abroad in Munich and Paris. She grew to believe that education should focus on each child’s abilities and talents, and that instruction in the arts and culture was at least as important as academic studies.
Keith grew disenchanted with the instruction in public school when her daughter, Mary, reached school age. In 1916, Keith hired an English governess to teach her daughter, as well as the children of family and friends, in her home. Demand soon grew, and, in seven years, to accommodate a growing student body, she purchased the Shoudy property on North Second Street, where her project – Keith Country Day School – still thrives today.