Author: G. R. Peterson
Anne Barrett was admitted to the Industrial School for Girls in Dorchester (ISFG) when she was just seven years old on June 29, 1859. In 1860, she was among the youngest of thirty girls in the school. Unlike most of the other children, Anne’s sisters were also at the school. Mary Ann (“ Minnie”) and Fannie Barrett arrived at the school two months before their little sister. They were 9 and 10.
The Barrett girls were all born in England–Minnie in 1848, Fannie in 1849, and Anne on September 13, 1851. Their parents were William and Mary Ann Barrett. The Barretts lived in the city of Stourbridge in the county of Worcestershire. Stourbridge was and remains known today as a centre of glass-making. It is very possible that William’s profession was glass-making. Interestingly, the family had two servants, which suggests they had some means and were among the middle class, if not above it, while they lived in England.
William Barrett arrived in America in 1852. It is unclear if he brought his family with him at that time. We know little about his history or his intentions in America, except that he settled “at the West.” Should we take this to mean the American West? Western Massachusetts? The West End of Boston? It is only possible to guess. Perhaps, since he arrived in the midst of the California Gold Rush, William decided to seek his fortune in the American West. It appears that the family had some money in England–perhaps they came to America for more.
By 1859 when the girls were admitted to the ISFG, William was dead. Their mother, Mary Ann, lived in East Cambridge where she worked, coincidentally, in a glass factory. If Mary Ann worked at the New England Glass Company, the largest of its kind in that area, she would have either cleaned molds, packed finished products, or worked on the sales floor. Mary Ann’s widowhood and likely full-time work probably forced her into a situation in which she had to give up the girls. Mrs. Barrett gave them up reluctantly, however, and not all at once.
Although the school’s managers desired to “keep up the connection between the children and their parents,” apparently the last Wednesday of the month on which “Visiting Day” occurred was not sufficient for Mrs. Barrett. In 1862 she requested to have her children come into Boston to meet her and have their photographs taken. Unfortunately, permission for the rendezvous was refused “for various reasons.” Perhaps Mrs. Barrett desired a family photograph because she realized that her family was beginning to fracture. By the time of Mrs. Barrett’s request, 10-year-old Anne had been placed in Mrs. Holden’s house in Dorchester. Three months after the refused meeting in Boston, Mrs. Holden lodged a complaint “that Mrs. Barrett came there too often.”
Eventually, Mrs. Barrett succeeded somewhat in uniting her family. A year into Minnie’s placement in Somerville, Mrs. Barrett applied for her return. Mrs. Barrett had just remarried to Thomas Franklin, a glassblower. The school learned that Mrs. Barrett “was to marry very respectably” and “should have a comfortable home,” indeed very likely since glassblowers were well-paid. Minnie herself was “anxious to live with her mother.” In 1863 they were reunited.
Anne’s journey back to her mother was a long and difficult one. Anne appeared to be doing well two years into her placement with Mrs. Holden. After 3 ½ years, however, Anne was returned to the school for “pilfering and deceiving.” She was then 13 years old.
Anne did not stay at the school for long after this. Two months after returning to the school, Anne went to Mrs. George Baldwin of Dorchester, where she stayed for one year taking care of children. After that, Anne’s time in Dorchester came to a dramatic end when she ran away from Baldwin’s in March 1866. The school later learned that she had joined her sister, possibly Minnie or Fannie, in Boston and continued with her to their mother in Portland, Maine. Upon hearing that Mrs. Barrett and her new husband had a good situation and, moreover, that it would be difficult to bring Anne back from another state, the school’s officers voted to allow Anne to remain there. Thus one chapter of Anne Barrett’s life closed with a seemingly happy ending.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to trace Anne Barrett in the historical record after this time. The 1870 Census reveals an 18-year-old Annie Barrett, born in England working as a domestic servant in Somerville. Unfortunately, we cannot be sure this is Anne Barrett. How long did Anne stay with her mother, sister, and stepfather in Maine? What was their reunion like? Did she ever marry and have children? These questions remain for the next investigation of the life of Anne Barrett.