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Paperback | $25.00 Short | £17.95 | ISBN: 9780262521048| 6 x 9 in | October 1985

Daughters of the State

A Social Portrait of the First Reform School for Girls in North America, 1856-1905


A rich and fascinating study of education, social reform, and women's history, Daughters of the State explores the lives of young girls who came to the State Industrial School for Girls in Lancaster, Massachusetts during its first fifty years.

Brenzel skillfully integrates the complex lines of nineteenth-century social thought and policies formed around issues of work, sex roles, schooling, and sexuality that have carried through to this century. In the school's handwritten case histories and legislative reports, she uncovers institutional mores and biases toward the young and the poor and especially toward women. Brenzel also reveals the plight of the parents who were forced by their circumstances to condemn their children to such institutions in the hope of improving their futures.

Daughters of the State is an MIT-Harvard Joint Center for Urban Studies Book.


"Daughters of the State makes good use of quantitative evidence without losing sight of the individuals who lived at Lancaster. Case histories poignantly describe the desperate existences of families ground down by poverty, who could neither provide for nor govern their children ... a valuable addition to the history of social welfare in the United States."
- Journal of Social History