A Division of William Francis Galvin, Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

An Extraordinary Look Into Ordinary Lives

photo of doll heads

Uncovering Dorchester’s Industrial School for Girls
1859 – 1880

On display May – October 2018

History and archaeology combine to tell the story of a 19th-century “child-saving” institution and those who walked its halls. Dorchester’s Industrial School for Girls was designed to “prevent evil” in “destitute or neglected” children. The middle and upper-class managers of the school trained these young girls in the domestic arts and proper female virtue in hopes that they would become productive members of the working class.

Using school records and artifacts uncovered during a 2015 archaeological dig, the Commonwealth Museum’s new lobby exhibit brings this never-before-told story of Victorian moral reform to life. The girls’ individual experiences at and after the school take center stage, but the exhibit also explores class dynamics, gender roles, race relations, sickness and disease, and leisure in 19th-century Boston.