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

24 comments:

  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.

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    1. Alice Deaguero San MiguelSeptember 25, 2022 at 10:31 AM

      I was there in 1963 &1964 I was lucky enough to take part of the music and and was in the plays and sang for the governors wife tea and lawyers from the area and many state agencies I know they were recorded ..any way of locating any of the tapes or records of my stay there

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    1. I was there from 1984 to 1986. We should start a group recalling all of our memories, because there is little record of this ever happening. It was a big part of our lives that is just missing now. That was our high school, some of us graduated there. I sang at a graduation off one of my peers... Now it's just all gone from history like it never happened .. no yearbook, nothing, just a short story they barely days anything. I can't believe nobody has written a book about it or SOMETHING...

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    2. Hi Mila!Remember me?I also was there between 1984 ,86,87...I always wondered what happened to all the girls I was there with!I remember you!I agree with you,this was a huge part of my life,good or bad it happened!And it happened to alot of us...Can't seem to get it off anonymous soooo...Molly Paananen is me

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    3. I graduated MVS in Dec 85. It was..and still is..an enormous part of me. I wonder if you sang at my graduation..."out here on my own"...

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    4. Hi all! I was there twice, can't remember the exact dates, but it was some time in 1985 and 1986. Does anyone happen to have any pictures whatsoever? My name is Cheri Penticoff.


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  3. I spent from the time I was 12 until I was 17 at MVS. While some memories I would like to forget this place became home to me. I had anywhere from 60-80 sisters at all times. Some I still have contact with. Yes being locked in security or cells really sucked but it served its purpose. There I met some very caring people. Mr. Bill Unger and Ethal street gave their lives taking care of us. This was my home

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    1. I would like to connect, I was there also from 1984 to 1986

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    2. I was there from 85 to 87 I don't remember you never the less I would love to talk with you

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    3. Also I shouldn't be hard to remember I was 1 out of 3 of the only black girls there I don't know how we can talk I'll keep checking for you to respond

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    4. Mr Unger was a kind person and I went water skiing with him and his boys and I was one out of all the girls over the years to have my image sculpted and displayed in the administration building. I was honored.

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    5. Please tell me that this black girl is April Hinnigan?I also was there at the same time...Molly Paananen

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    6. Does anyone remember a girl named Shirley late 70's early 80's tall dark hair tough girl type. Would love to make contact .

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    7. Hey, my name is Rusty Workman I was the first boy ever sent to Mountain View for a 45 day evaluation. I spent most of my time in cells that’s what they called the hole for beating up all the other kids that got there after me not the girls but the boys because that place was mine and I loved it there what Better Pl., Kadim young rowdy kid be sent to the girls reform school it was like heaven. I fell in love with a girl name Dana Willett. She is super hot blonde was anyway I don’t know what she’s like now but back then she was the finest girl there. I remember the first day I walked into the chow hall, and all the girls went crazy. My face was red as a covered wagon. But as soon as I walked in there, I knew I was gonna have a lot of fun over the next 45 days and I did.!!!

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    1. Alicia Sharp!!❤Of coarse it is!!I remember...I remember!!Do you?Molly Paananen?

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  5. This place has a uniquely dark past just as many reform or boarding schools can and do. The purposes they served and the timeframe these “institutions” were built in peculiar indeed.

    Seedy and questionable in my opinion then wiped from history it seems. Historical buildings, the people, and stories to learn by. Wish we’d have better truth in our identities.

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  6. Was there a newsletter called "Meadow Lark"?

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  7. Hello there to all of you wonderful women who attended MVS. Some of you reference some less than great memories, I myself am struggling with some. Without getting too personal, I am wondering if anyone experienced trauma at the hands of staff there, particularly male staff. I don't know where else to start with these questions since MVS has been closed for so long and has all but disappeared from public purview. Is anyone willing to share vague details if they share similar memories, and/or initials of staff members or even their first names?

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  8. Does anyone remember a girl named Shirley late 70's early 80's tall dark hair tough girl type. Would love to make contact .

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  9. I was there in middle of 1964. Did make lots of good friends there but somehow lost touch. One girl's name I do remember was Sherry Walraven. Had my first girl fist fight and we wound up being the best of friends wasn't Sherry ut can't remember her name.

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  10. I do not remember a Shirley, I was at MVS around 1978. I think my stay was around 45 days.

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  11. My grandpa was in charge of the cottage parents there from 1965 to 1974. All the girls called him “Grandpa Stu”. They called him that after my first visit there in the summer of 1965 because they heard me call him that. My grandmother, Lois, ran the kitchen.

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