Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded

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Location: Waltham, Massachusettsmap
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Originally founded by Samuel Gridley Howe in South Boston, Massachusetts, as the Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded in 1848. Howe was an abolitionist and social reformer who is also credited with establishing the Perkins Institute for the Blind. The mission behind the MSFM was to train disabled youth to become productive and self-supporting citizens. Patients were given classroom instruction as well as vocational training in things like shoe repair, broom making, sewing and housekeeping. In 1870 the school became accepting adult patients as well as children. While ostensibly a school for those deemed "feeble-minded", it also became the home of children who were orphaned, troubled, or otherwise had no place else to go.

The school moved to a new campus in Waltham, Massachusetts, in 1888.

Under Walter E. Fernald, the third superintendent of the institution, the school became a research facility as well. Fernald was a proponent of eugenics, a popular idea at the time of preventing the disabled, mentally ill and other "defective" populations from having children or living freely among society. Fernald and others promoted the idea of keeping the feeble-minded in institutions for their own and others' safety. Notably, toward the end of his life, Fernald's opinions changed and he no longer advocated for the enforced segregation of the mentally disabled. After his death in 1924, the school was named in his honor the following year.

Fernald School was officially closed in 2014, after years of controversy.

Admission Records

Further reading

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