Monday, May 20, 2013

Mountain View School for Girls

The Montana legislature created the Boys and Girls Industrial School at Miles City in 1893. This reformatory was for boys and girls who were either in serious trouble with the law or had nowhere else to go. It was one step toward the establishment of the juvenile court system that came about in 1907. Some felt strongly that there should be separate industrial schools for boys and girls. One of these advocates was Dr. Maria Dean, a Helena physician whose practice specialized in the diseases of women and children. A great humanitarian, Dr. Dean took up many causes during her lifetime, but she felt most strongly about separating boys and girls in detention. Dr. Dean worked tirelessly with other women’s groups toward this end, and finally, in 1919, legislator Emma Ingalls sponsored a bill establishing the Mountain View Vocational School for Girls in Helena. Dr. Dean died just weeks after the bill passed. The first six girls were transferred from Miles City to the new facility seven miles north of Helena in April 1920.

Stewart Hall, 1961. Image clipped from "State of Montana Vocational School for Girls"
Montana Historical Society Research Center
By 1922, fifty-three girls between the ages of nine and eighteen lived in cottages on the campus. Some were orphans, some were runaways, and others had behavioral problems. Until the 1950s, harsh discipline included solitary confinement and lock up. By the 1960s, there was more emphasis on education and less on punishment. In 1996, the school closed and the Montana Law Enforcement Academy moved in. A few buildings, stables, and attic graffiti recall the former use of the campus.

From More Montana Moments

1 comment:

  1. Ruby Miller, the administrator in the fifties, is the one that changed the way girls were diciplined at the school. She was accused by the governor of the state of trying to run a girls finishing school. She started the beauty culture classes, the cooking classes, the music program, the acting talent program, and the swimming, not to mention dances, soft ball, and I could go on but won't. Nowhere do I find anything about this woman who was so important in so many of the girl's lives there. I will be send a book that I wrote about her and the school to the Montana Historical Society in two or three months, and I hope something about this woman who broke one of the glass ceilings in Montana will appear on their web site.