Fifteen Marin families combined forces to start a local school for their children in 1916, converted an old barn and an attic in downtown San Rafael to a schoolhouse, and opened the San Rafael School for Girls. Four years later, the trustees appointed sisters Katharine and Laura Branson as co-headmistresses and renamed the school in honor of the eldest of the two sisters.

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Headmistresses Katharine and Laura Branson were both graduates of Bryn Mawr College. Katharine had been at Miss Beard’s School in Orange, New Jersey, where she was Associate Director of Studies. Her sister Laura previously taught mathematics and science at The Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, after having served as head of the Department of Mathematics at Rosemary Hall in Greenwich, Connecticut.