Historical Treasure: Florence Crittenton home and hospital

Submitted photoHistoric home: Photograph of the Florence Crittenton Home of Terre Haute circa 1910 from the photo archives of the Vigo County Historical Museum.

The Vigo County Historical Museum is home to many treasures, but sometimes the treasure is indeed a home. The History Center and the Paul Dresser Home located in Fairbanks Park are both property of the Historical Society, but many historic buildings exist within our community.

This week’s Historical Treasure is one such property, or at least a photo of that property that is held in the Historical Museum Photo Archives.

The Florence Crittenton Home was an international charitable organization for unwed mothers. Located at 1923 Poplar Street, the Florence Crittenton home of Terre Haute opened in 1907. Within four years, 109 girls had visited there. By 1911, the Florence Crittenton Home of Terre Haute was considered the top facility of its kind in the state.

Charles N. Crittenton founded Florence Crittenton Homes at the request and in memory of his daughter, who died at the age of four from Scarlett fever.

Charles participated in the founding of 73 homes in the United States and several more in China and Japan before his passing in 1909 at the age of 73. While he became quite wealthy during his life as the owner of a drug supply company, he spent most of his life helping the unfortunate and contributed at least $1,000 to every Crittenton Home founded.

The age of residents, often referred to as “inmates” ranged from 12 to 20 years of age, but the majority were under 16 years old. No one was admitted to the home unless she promised to stay at least six months and abide by all rules and regulations. Most “inmates” came as referrals from the police, probation workers, or other charitable organizations. Some were sent by friends who had become aware of their situation.

Once admitted to the Terre Haute home, the girls were required to learn basic domestic skills.

They earned merit rewards for promptness, neatness, faithfulness, cheerfulness, truthfulness, language, politeness, table manners, temper, obedience and initiative. The education of the residents was not neglected.

The format of all of the educational ideas was based upon ideas published by the Spokane Society of Social and Moral Hygiene. After a girl had resided in the home for a year, she was placed in a private home as a domestic servant, but often the girl and her child eventually became adopted members of the family.

Of course as time passed, the rules, regulation, education and program changed along with society. The Florence Crittenton Home of Terre Haute operated until the mid-1970s having impacted the lives of thousands of young women and children.

The Vigo County Historical Museum is now open. Visit the History Center of Vigo County at 929 Wabash Ave. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission and Membership prices are available online at www.vchsmuseum.org.

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