Massachusetts Archives


WPA school records project files [Walter E. Fernald State School]

Part of: Walter E. Fernald State School

WPA school records project files, 1940-1941.

2 file folders (partial document box)
Call no.: HS14.02/2645X

Scope and Content: Massachusetts Resolves 1846, c 117 appointed Commissioners on Idiocy to inquire on: the condition of idiots in the commonwealth and if anything can be done for them. The commission’s report, written by Samuel Gridley Howe of the Perkins Institution and Massachusetts Asylum for the Blind, led to the establishment by Resolves 1848, c 65 of the Experimental School for Teaching and Training Idiotic Children, located at the Perkins Institution. The school was incorporated as the Massachusetts School for Idiotic and Feeble-Minded Youth (St 1850, c 150), located near Perkins in South Boston, with Howe serving as president until his death in 1876. It was renamed the Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded by St 1883, c 239, reflecting the establishment of a separate asylum department for those beyond school age or not capable of being helped by the school’s instruction. Funds for the construction of a new facility in Waltham were provided by Resolves 1888, c 82, and occupation of the new site began in 1890, with the South Boston facility closing in 1892. St 1925, c 293 renamed the institution the Walter E. Fernald State School, in honor of the superintendent of the school, 1887-1924. A 2003 gubernatorial initiative to close the Fernald School (known as the Walter E. Fernald Developmental Center since 1993) by 2007 was contested during the subsequent decade, until the institution was shut down permanently in Nov. 2014.
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