Schoolhouse Rock! 400 Years of Race, Gender, and Class in Boston Area Educational Institutions

Part of: Society for Historical Archaeology 2018

This symposium examines five school sites in the Boston area spanning nearly 400 years of active use: Boston Latin School (1635), Harvard College (1636), The African School on Nantucket (1827), The Abiel Smith School (1835), and The Dorchester Industrial School for Girls (1859). These regulated educational institutions provide ideal opportunities to study issues of race, class, gender, identity, and agency through the lens of a community’s youth. This session combines recent analysis of newly excavated sites as well as re-analysis of sites that were excavated decades ago. Archaeology provides valuable insight into the lives of children who often are deliberetely absent from the historic record. Additionally, presenters will explore the intersectionality of these individual institutions as they overlap in time, educational goals, and the communities they served.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-12 of 12)

  • Documents (12)

  • 19th Century Reform and Control at the Industrial School for Girls in Dorchester, Massachusetts (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only maddie penney.

    An examination of the nineteenth century adornment assemblage from the Industrial School for Girls in Dorchester, Massachusetts, archaeologically excavated by Joseph Bagley and the Boston City Archaeology Lab during the summer of 2015. The school was staffed and administered by middle and upper-class Boston influenced by a Second Great Awakening reform movement, in which piety was the foundation for a number of reform efforts, including femininity, domesticity, and spiritual materialism. The...

  • Archaeology of the 1859 Dorchester Industrial School for Girls: an Introduction (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Joseph M. Bagley. Sarah Johnson. maddie penney.

    In 2015, the City of Boston Archaeology Program excavated the rear yard of the 1859 Industrial School for Girls in Boston ahead of construction on the property.  The School was founded by wealthy Boston women in order to recive neglected children and provide them education and domestic labor training with an ultimate goal of employment as domestic laborers in Boston-area homes.  The more than 17,000 artifacts recovered, most from an intact 5-meter long privy and nearby trash deposit, are...

  • Boston Latin School: A Look At Ethnic And Engendered Spaces (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kathleen von Jena.

    Boston Latin School: A Look at Ethnic and Engendered Spaces Kathleen von Jena, Boston Landmarks Commission   During the summer of 2015 the Boston City Archaeology Program conducted excavations on the site of the original Boston Latin School and neighboring Schoolmasters house dating to 1635-1748. Boston Latin was the first purpose-built free school in America where Cotton Mather, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams and John Hancock attended. Public Archaeology conducted at this site provided an...

  • Building a College in Colonial America: evidence from Harvard Yard, Cambridge, MA. (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Patricia Capone. Sarah Johnson. Diana Loren. Jade W Luiz. Jennifer Poulsen.

    Recent excavations in the Harvard Yard have expanded our understanding of investment and institutionalization of education in the 17th century. Archaeology of Harvard's first building demonstrates the richness of material culture used at the dining table and the investment made to construct a significant structure on the landscape. We provide a preliminary analysis of artifact density and distribution of dining and architectural objects of the most recent excavation season, laying the groundwork...

  • Education as Resistance: The African School and New Guinea Community on Nantucket (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jennifer McCann. Victoria A Cacchione. Jared P Muehlbauer.

    In African American communities, education serves as a crucial tool used to resist racism and ensure the persistence of their culture and identity. In 1826 the African-American community of New Guinea followed this tradition with the establishment of the first public school on Nantucket. For the next two decades, the African school became the focus of an intense battle over school segregation on the island. While Nantucket’s popular history places the island at the forefront of the abolition and...

  • Long Walks and Longer Waits: Educational Injustice in Boston Schools (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jennifer McCann. Nicole Estey Walsh.

    The Abiel Smith School, located on Boston’s historic Beacon Hill, was one of the oldest all-Black schools in the country and operated from 1834 to 1855. According to documentary evidence, the school was underfunded, mismanaged, and often at the center of debates about segregation. The Northeast Museum Services Center, in partnership with the Boston City Archaeology Program, is rehousing and researching the artifacts associated with the school that were excavated in the 1990s. The artifacts tell...

  • O is for Opium: Offering More than Education at the Abiel Smith School (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Dania D. Jordan.

    The Abiel Smith, constructed between 1834 and 1835 in Beacon Hill in Boston, MA, is one of the oldest black schools in the United States. The Smith School is central to Beacon Hill’s Black history because it helped Black Bostonians advance in society and negotiate racism through education. However, the Smith School may have served another important role in the Black community. Medicinal bottles excavated from the site suggest that the school administered medicine to students. In the nineteenth...

  • Provisions, Possessions, and Positionality: Faunal Analysis of the Dorchester Industrial School for Girls (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Liz M. Quinlan.

    Through faunal analysis of the remains of mammals, molluscs, fish and fowl found at the Dorchester Industrial School for Girls this report explores the dietary habits of staff and students, and connects the socioeconomic and cultural positionality of the girls, the School, and their food to the greater context of late 19th century Boston. We may interrogate specific social circumstances and their effect on daily meals, and in doing so draw useful comparisons between the activities of the port of...

  • "Some interest has been expressed in regard to the diet of the children": The Documentary and Archaeological Implications of Food at the Dorchester Industrial School for Girls. (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alexandra U Crowder.

             The "flora" portion of past diets tends to be an aspect of archaeological assemblages that becomes partially inferred, rather than completely recreated. When they exist, documentary records such as purchase lists and recipes can suggest dietary preferences. Archaeologically recovered macrobotanical assemblages display a concrete portion of consumption practices, but within the constraints of showing a small percentage of plant material that only survives in certain preservation...

  • "Training to good conduct, and instructing in household labor:" Sewing at the Industrial School for Girls, Dorchester, MA (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jennifer Poulsen.

    In the mid-19th century, a practical working knowledge of domestic arts, such as sewing, was necessary to navigate daily life.  However, excelling in these skills was seen as significant not only because of the functional use of the work, but also as associated with desirable personal qualities of neatness, thrift, and morality.  The Industrial School for Girls in Dorchester, MA was established not only to foster marketable trade skills, but also to improve the moral character of the young women...

  • ‘The True Spirit of Service’: Toys as Tools of Ideology at the Dorchester Industrial School for Girls (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Sarah Johnson.

    This paper examines the role of ceramics, as both teaching tools and toys, in identity formation at the Industrial School for Girls in Dorchester, Massachusetts. The School, which opened in Dorchester in 1859, had the goal of training girls from impoverished backgrounds to be domestic servants, and as such, the material culture at the School would have been important in reinforcing or contradicting the social roles that these girls were being taught to inhabit. Using adult and doll scale...

  • Up Close and Personal: Objects as Expressions of Identity at the Abiel Smith School (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alicia Paresi. Jessica Costello.

     Archeological artifacts discovered at the Abiel Smith School (ca. 1834-1855) include personal objects like jewelry, buttons, combs, and toys.  Such items used for adornment, grooming, or leisure can provide insight into how the students perceived themselves in terms of individual, communal, and ethnic identity.  This paper will examine these objects as a means to answering the following questions:  Can specific personal objects help us understand the students’ cultural backgrounds?  To what...