Gladys Strong Hellmann, 89, who was a teacher in the elementary grades of the D.C. public school system for 50 years before her retirement in 1961, died at Fairfax Hospital Nov. 20 following a stroke.

As a child, Mrs. Hellman was widely known in the Washington area for her virtuosity as a pianist. From the time she was 8 until she was in her early teens, she gave numerous concerts here and also wrote a number of works for the piano.

She graduated from the old Central High School here and studied at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore. Although she continued to play until near the end of her life, she decided early on that she would be a teacher. She graduated from the old Wilson Normal School here in 1910.

She began teaching in the public schools at that time. For a least 25 years before her retirement, she was a first grade teacher at Ben W. Murch Elementary.

As it happened, Mrs. Hellmann's teaching career almost was cut short by her marriage in 1914 to Carl A. Hellmann, a patent attorney here. The school regulations at the time permitted married men to teach and permitted women who already were married to teach. But under what was know as Rule 45 of the school board, women who began their career while single were required to resign when they married.

Mrs. Hellman went to court about this. Afteer protracted litigation, the old D.C. Supreme Court upheld her right to continue in her profession. She stayed at it long enough to teach two and even three generations of some families.

After retiring, Mrs. Hellmann gave private lessons in English to children of diplomats here. She lived in Washington until two years ago, when she moved to McLean to live with a daughter, Rose Blundell.

She was a member of All Saints Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase and taught in the primary Sunday School thre for 35 years.

Her husband died in 1955.

In addition to Mrs. Blundell, survivors include another daughter, Star Murphy, also of McLean; three sons, Carl Strong Hellmann of Bethesda, Charles Strong Hellmann of Wheaton, and Marshall Strong Hellmann of Potomac; 10 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.