Monday, March 4, 2013

Old Girl's Trade High School

The Students of Girl's Trade High School, circa 1914 (all photos, taken from glass slides, courtesy of the City of Boston Archive).

In a previous entry, I posted a photo of Girl's Trade High School on Hemenway street.  At the time, I didn't know that Girl's Trade had an earlier home in the South End. Although the school may have had a still earlier home, I suspect that Girl's Trade started its life in the former Academy of the Sacred Heart on Chester Square.

Academy of the Sacred Heart, 1888. The name of the street was, from the Harvard bridge, West Chester Park, Chester Park, Chester Square, and East Chester Park to Edward Everett Square. In 1894, the name was changed to Massachusetts avenue throughout.

The Academy of the Sacred Heart was a Catholic school for girls, first located in Boston's South End. Wikipedia says it was founded in 1880, but an 1883 map doesn't show it present at the Massachusetts avenue site. The school moved to Commonwealth avenue, and then to Newton, where it continues today as the Newton Country Day School of the Sacred Heart. 

Girl's Trade High School, 1928.The school has expanded into two adjacent buildings.

The city of Boston took over the property, and kept its use as a girl's school, in this case the Trade School for Girls. The city bought the two adjacent buildings as well, and expanded the school into them. 

Working out in the gymnasium.

I particularly like this photo, because it shows what I imagine would have been the chapel of the Sacred Heart school. I assume this was the back of the building that extended behind the Puritan Theatre, as shown in the map directly above.

A future draper, working on a dress.

The caption for this tinted photo describes this girl as doing draper's work. A draper was the highest level of dressmaker, working to fit the individual as she assembled the dress, rather than working for measurements. This would have been high end work, so these girls were not all being prepared for low-income drudge work. 

A costume design student sketching at the blackboard.

Apparently, senior students could study costume design and do real creative work. I love that hat.

Evening class students making themselves dresses.

In the early years of the 20th century, Boston had many evening school programs. Some were for young people who had to work during the day, and others must have been for adults. We can see we're in one of the bow-front rooms that can be seen in the first photo above. And of course we can also see that this school was integrated. Most of the day students shown in the photos are white, so this may have been particular to the evening school. 

Learning to use stitching machines.

This scene is more like what I'd expect out of a trade school - learning to use machinery to do factory work. Or course the factories may have been quite small, and the girls could have worked doing alterations, or even started their own businesses. I've seen quite a few listings for dressmakers that were located in private homes.

Addendum: I just stumbled on this video from a 1911 short film showing the Manhattan Trade School for Girls, and it immediately reminded me of the photos above.


  1. Mark, I am a 64yo English High grad from Dorchester and I love reading this blog. Please keep up the good work; it's appreciated.

  2. Was this school ever a hotel