Author: Donna E. Russo
“Mrs. Foster wished to give up Addie Ross. Mrs. Smith had been to see Mrs. Foster and decided her management was not good for Addie who had stolen money and other things. It was decided that as Mrs. Foster gave her up our responsibility was not at an end” Addie Ross was placed in and ran away from five homes as a domestic servant in the years 1861-1870. Admitted to the school in November 1859, at the age of seven, Addie found little contentment at the homes. It wasn’t until her final placement in 1869 when Addie reported feeling “frequently happy in her home” where she had learned to become a dressmaker.
Addie’s father, Ozias, was a cabinet maker in Lowell in 1839. He was married two times before his marriage to Addie’s mother Clara Rice. Both of these marriages ended with the tragic deaths of his wives, one in childbirth. Only one child, Louisa M. Ross, born in 1843, survived. In October 1845, Ozias married Clara H. Rice, (1819-1857), of Lowell. Their first child Charles Ross, died at 16 months. Clara bore two more children before her own death in 1857—Ella Ross (1850) and Addie (1852). Clara’s death in 1857 left Ozias with his three daughters. On November 26, 1859, Ozias Ross placed 7-year old Addie at the Dorchester Industrial School for Girls. Her sister, Ella, joined her there in 1861.
Young Addie struggled in the school for at least ten years while under ISFG supervision. She showed her discontent by running away from the homes. During this time Addie was in touch with her family: at times taken by her “aunt” Mrs. Houston to her Brookline St. home in Boston and at least once forcibly removed from her home by her father Ozias. The records indicate that Addie had stolen money from the family or boarders. In December 1867, after having left a placement at Mrs. Wood’s home, Addie reportedly ran to Laconia, New Hampshire, perhaps to her father’s family. The School, fearful of retaliation from the Wood family, contacted their lawyer and obtained a writ of habeas corpus, a court order, demanding Addie return to the school to face her accusers. Eventually, the school and the offended family arranged a “special punishment” for Addie. Finally, Addie Ross, found her calling as a dressmaker, in 1869, during her last placement at Mrs. Hodgkins’ in Walpole, NH. In 1870, Addie turned 18 and left Mrs. Hodgkins’ and the 1870 census lists her residence at the Young Women’s Christian Association as a seamstress.
Addie and her fellow students learned dressmaking skills at the school by assisting seamstresses and dressmakers in making and mending the children’s clothing. In May 1868, ISFG President, Miss Elizabeth Quincy Guild, “reported that the seamstresses had done well, having fitted 21 new dresses and repaired the old ones. These dresses were to be finished by the children.” This training provided the girls with wage-earning skills.
In 1873, just three years after cutting ties with the School, Addie Ross married George W. Radcliffe (1848-1908) from Andover, Massachusetts. At the time of their marriage, George was a “clothier;” by 1880, he was working in a shoe shop. Also, by 1880, the couple had a five-year-old daughter, Fannie.
By 1903, Addie filed for divorce due to her husband’s alcoholism, a condition which caused his death in 1908. Addie’s health deteriorated as she grew older; she was eventually admitted to Boston State Hospital, originally called the Boston Lunatic Asylum. She died of senile psychosis simple deterioration, secondary to general arteriosclerosis, in 1933.