The Ingleside Home School for Girls, Part II

Click here for Part I

The Money Situation

The Revere Journal tells us that the Ingleside Home School for Girls was founded in 1895. The owner of the property on Prospect Ave had the house fixed up at her own expense and allowed the school to operate there rent-free, “the directors assuming the taxes and all other expenses necessary to keep the home in a state of repair.” The school seems to have been founded with an emphasis on voluntary donations to handle its expenses. A Journal article from 1900 says that a contribution of $100 made one a lifetime member, $10 an honorary member, and $1 an annual member of a supporting committee.

The need for funds was a common theme of the Journal articles from the very beginning right through to the end, which seems to have occurred between 1935 and 1940. The calls for donations became somewhat desperate before this period: in 1933 there had “never been a time when funds were needed more greatly than the present,” and the need for donations was “particularly urgent” in 1934.

Other sources of income included the support of religious organizations such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and fairs at which the girls would sell hand-made goods. In 1909 the school needed a new stove, so the girls sold their items door-to-door and hired themselves out for household chores until they could afford the stove themselves. Articles also mention fundraising sales held at private homes and benefit performances by groups such as the Melrose Women’s Club “Dramatics” in 1923.

Who Were These Girls?

The Journal’s descriptions of the girls who attended the Ingleside are always elaborately worded which makes it difficult to pin down exactly who the demographic was. The unsourced ad from Part I, for example, describes the girls as neglected and claims that they could become menaces to society without the help of the Ingleside. In what way were these girls neglected, and exactly what kind of menace would they pose?

The earliest description of the girls the Ingleside hoped to help comes from May 8, 1897, two years after the school opened. It says:

there are large numbers of young women, not all in our large centres, by any means, who have made but one misstep, and who, having the timely hand outstretched to them, may, amid proper surroundings, and kept apart from those to whom sin is no stranger, regain lost womanhood and be made again worthy members of society. Such a helping hand is that held out by the Ingleside.

Three common themes originate here: the emphasis on religion, the idea of womanhood that needs to be regained, and the idea that these girls have made “but one misstep” – in other words they screwed up, but not too badly. The latter concept is echoed in an article from 1910 which states that “only delinquent girls are taken, but not those who have overstepped the moral line.” One has to wonder where exactly that line was.

Five years after the opening of the Ingleside their target demographic seems to have shifted. In an address given by the then secretary of the Ingleside, Gula Graves (whose name was also spelled Giula and Yula in various articles), we see that

It was the intention at the beginning to take in young women who had stepped aside from the paths of virtue, those who were more sinned against than sinning, but in the past two years only young girls who were in danger of being led astray, unless protected by such a home, have been admitted, the former class being assigned to other homes.

What is most interesting here is the shift from young women who had already “stepped aside from paths of virtue” to girls “who were in danger of being led astray.” What criteria were involved in deciding who fell into the latter category? Reports given by Miss Graves at the annual meetings of 1901 and 1902 shed some light on this.

1901: (The Ingleside was) Organized at first as a refuge for those who have strayed from the path of rectitude, and who desired to reform, it was not long before another class for whom no such loving provision had been made, were knocking at its doors, the class of girls who, inheriting evil tendencies and growing up in a bad environment, are on the verge of falling.

1902: It (The Ingleside) was opened in 1895 as a rescue home, but those interested found there were girls in degraded environments, or who had lost their parents, who were too old for orphan asylums, yet not subjects for a reformatory, who needed guidance, care and training. Ingleside now takes these girls, and they are brought under religious influences, and given domestic and other training.

Here we see again the emphasis on young women who were “on the verge of falling” rather than those who had already “strayed from the path of rectitude.” The interesting distinctions at this point are found in the details about upbringing. Here we have girls without parents who were too old for orphanages and girls who were “growing up in bad environments.” Perhaps most interesting is the comment about “inheriting evil tendencies.” This suggests that not only girls without parents qualified for the Ingleside, but also girls whose parents were found morally lacking. Another point of interest is the comment about the reformatory which suggests that girls who had broken the law would not be admitted to the Ingleside.

Throughout the 1900s a concern with the role of the mother began to surface: where in 1901 the focus was on “bad environments,” 1903 mentions “girls deprived of good homes and good mothers” and 1907 mentions “neglected and motherless young girls.” This idea was given its clearest expression in an excerpt from the annual meeting of 1912: “Many (of the girls) are motherless, some half-mothered, which is a harder problem to deal with. Whether by death of their parents or by lack of character in fathers and mothers, they have not known what it is to live in a home.”

When the Journal describes these girls it feels like they’re always on the verge of saying something that was perhaps too scandalous to be printed at the turn of the 20th century but would have been implicitly understood by their readers. It’s likely that unwed teenage pregnancy would have been the step too far across the “moral line” for an institution concerned with young women, but the Journal doesn’t come out and say as much. So based on what these newspaper articles give us, we can describe the typical Ingleside student like this:

  • Girls in their early teens from poor families.
  • They had either lost both parents, lost their mothers and were being raised by single fathers, or they had parents who were considered lacking in moral character.
  • Their station in life made it possible that they would turn to some kind of illegal behavior, perhaps prostitution, but they hadn’t yet done anything illegal.

Part III, which will look at the work of the Ingleside, coming soon!

Researched and written by Brendan O’Brien, June 2021.