Mrs. Bessie Tartt Wilson arrived in Boston from Mobile, Alabama to attend nursing school at the age of 19. Upon completion of her degree, Mrs. Wilson practiced nursing in Boston area hospitals and as a private nurse. During this time, it was challenging for African American nurses to find employment. Mrs. Wilson’s entrepreneurial spirit became evident as she used this inspiration to establish her own nurses’ registry, after several years of operating the Nurses registry, she ventured out into a career she always dreamed about, caring for children.
In 1946, at the age of 23, Mrs. Wilson realized the rapidly changing needs of Boston area children and the potential of Boston’s strong child care market.
She founded a day care and foster care facility, Tartt’s Nursery School, on 2 Holborn Terrace (now Kavanaugh Way) in Dorchester, MA. Tartt’s quickly became renowned throughout the Boston community for high-quality child care. Mrs. Wilson developed a teaching philosophy based upon a well rounded, structured curriculum and a strong value system designed to instill a love of learning and encourage the development of happy, healthy, confident children.
As her focus began to narrow on academics, Mrs. Wilson renamed Tartt’s Nursery School, Tartt’s Day Care Center & Private Kindergarten. After she passed, and under the leadership of her daughter, Mary L. Reed, Tartt’s Day Care Center & Private Kindergarten has evolved into a multi-site infant, toddler, preschool program (Tartt’s Day Care Centers Inc.).
In 2008 a non-profit foundation, The Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children (BTWIC), was founded in Mrs. Wilson’s honor to further serve and advocate for children and families throughout Massachusetts. Closing in 2016, the foundation left a successful, well-documented legacy of advocacy work on behalf of low-income children in Massachusetts.