Industrial School for Girls, 232 Centre Street

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No. 2936 Industrial School for Girls Building. Later used by the Home for Little Wanderers, photograph September, 2003.

On Wednesday, May 10, 2017, students of the Graduate Program in Public History at UMass Boston presented their research on the Industrial School for Girls and the girls and women involved in that institution.  The event was also the launch of the website created by the students in the Graduate Program about the Industrial School.

No. 16516 Illistration of Mary Parkman

The building used by the School is still in existence at 232 Centre Street.  The building, which is owned by the Epiphany School,  was the subject of a petition to the Boston Landmarks Commission for Landmark status.  The Epiphany School now plans to preserve the building and has been building new facilities on the property to accommodate their expansion.  In 2015, Joe Bagley, the city’s archaeologist recovered 17,723 historic artifacts from the site, many of which can be viewed in the website created by the graduate students.

The website is engaging and easy to use.  It includes the stories of some of the girls who attended and some of the women who were involved with the school.  A suggestion to include in the website a list of all the girls who are known to have attended the school was met with general approval.  Including all the names, even when no information has yet been discovered about some of the, may invite others to contribute comments about some of these yet-to-be researched girls.

In one sense it is remarkable that the graduate students were able to find so much information about some of the students and staff.  The girls were mostly from the lower-income level of society and were not the kinds of people who leave a lot of records behind.  The frustration that the researchers felt when their research turned up very little about some of the people was heartfelt.   Although their class project is over, it is easy to believe that some of these students will continue to be ever watchful for more evidence about the lives of their chosen subjects.  So we may learn more as time goes on.

The stories of the women and girls are engaging.  There are a good many images of artifacts from the archaeological dig and from the lives of the people. One additional feature is a list of resources consulted for each person for whom research was done.  This is a great example of how we should all document our genealogical research.

The following is from the entry for Mary Parkman written by Caroline Littlewood, an entry within the website:

Mary Eliot (Dwight) Parkman served as President of the Industrial School for Girls from 1860 to 1862. Born January 23, 1821, Mary was the daughter of industrial pioneer and education reformer Edmund Dwight, and the granddaughter of shipping millionaire Samuel Eliot through her mother, Mary Harrison Eliot Dwight. She spent her early years in Boston and Chicopee, Massachusetts balancing the care of her younger sisters and chronically ill mother, the social responsibilities of the Boston elite, and a rigorous education in the humanities. These experiences fed her interest in health and sanitation reform and prepared her for a life of leadership.

To see more of her story, visit the website.  You can leave comments on the website as well.

A Brief History


Posted on

March 23, 2020