Sunday, 14 August 2011

The Girls

This is a series of posts about Owatonna State School Museum (starting here), within a series of posts about our three week holiday in the US in June, which starts here.

Boys and girls were kept strictly segregated.  There are photos of them all playing together in a playground, but all the comments say that these are 'obviously set up' as this never happened.  

That included siblings, of course.  There were seemingly no provisions to keep brothers and sisters or even same sex siblings in contact.  There was story where one child was adopted, but not his brother.  One hopes that was an exception or that policies changed with the times, but even in 1945 it was a different world to today. 

The children all had jobs.  Typical girls' jobs included:  assisting with housework; scrubbing and polishing floors; working in the kitchens, dining rooms, nursery, hospital and laundry; caring for younger girls; waitressing in the employees' dining room; maid service in Superintendent's home; helping with summer vegetables and fruits during canning season.  Reading this list one wonders what the staff did themselves other than supervise the children. 

There were morning routines:

Girls that worked in the Main Kitchen had a 5.30 am wake-up call; all other girls were up at 6 am.

Beds were immediately made, and perfectly, or it was re-made until perfect (these routines related by a State Schooler from the 1940s).

Blankets were folded and returned to the cupboard.

Girls proceeded downstairs to the first first to dress by their individual, assigned chair.  Chairs were big at this institution.  Every child had one and reported to it at specific times of the day.

Those up at 5.30 went to their jobs.  The rest sat in their chairs until time to go to breakfast in the Main Building

No Talking was allowed while waiting to go to breakfast.

Bedtime rules included

Nightgowns were kept in a cloth bag hung on the back of the individual assigned chair.

The girls all undressed by their chair in the Main Room; there was no privacy.

They got blankets from the cupboard on the second floor.

The youngest were in bed with lights out at 7.30, then 8.00 and the eldest had a bedtime of 8.30pm.  The only exception was on Christmas Eve when everyone could stay up until 9.00 pm

No talking was allowed after lights out.


Boywilli said...

I remember this debate about whether it was right for inmates in institutions doing all the work in Mental Hospitals.
If they were at home these kids would be doing the same sort of chores. The girls would be helping Mum around the house and looking after younger siblings. The boys would be helping Dad in the garden. If they were on a farm then there would be animals to look after.
You end up with kids who have learnt how to look after themselves and their home, they are ready for bed at night because they are tired.
The alternative is to have lots of expensive domestic staff and then more staff to keep the bored kids out of trouble. Then the place gets closed down because it costs too much to run instead of being almost self sufficient
In Mental Hospitals it also meant that they started using tranquillisers on a large scale just to keep order.

Rick Stone said...

Afraid I have to agree with Bill. Although many of these orphanages came down to almost "slave labor" many actually taught the kids to be self-sufficient. Not a whole lot different than farm kids of the era. Many farmers had big families so they had enough help to run the farm. In my Dad's family their were eight children, five girls and three boys. They all worked the farm, from planting to "picking", including dragging huge cotton sacks as they piced the cotton. When Dad, third to the youngest, got married and moved to the city my grandfather had to give us the farm since he could not manage it with just the two youngest kids left.

Anonymous said...

no talking? I wonder what the thinking was behind that.

Shelley said...

Being an only child, I can't say for sure, but I always heard 'No Talking' at school nap times. To make the girls go to sleep quicker is my guess. It was the dressing my one's chair that seemed the most institutional to me, though.