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The Rhode Island State Home and School Project


Bibliographical Resources


There has been little published about the history of the State Home and School, later known as the O’Rourke Children’s Center. The works listed here, published in the 1940s and 1950s, vary widely in their quality. Crepeau (1941) and Lynch (1953) are scholarly works while the book by Jones (1944) is a personal recollection of his days as a medical doctor serving the institutionalized population at Howard, Rhode Island. The Stollerman (194?) report was written in response to a request by the Governor of Rhode Island to examine the placement of children in state care.

  • Crepeau, Henry J. 1941. Rhode Island: A History of Child Welfare Planning. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University Press.
  • Jones, Henry A. 1944. The Dark Days of Social Welfare at the State Institutions at Howard, Rhode Island: During 1893 Until Their Emancipation: Providence, R.I: Department of Social Welfare.
  • Libby, Helen C. 1958. History of the Patrick O'Rourke Children's Center. Providence, RI: Department of Social Welfare.
  • Lynch, Dorothy. 1953. A Study of the Patrick O'Rourke Children's Center of Rhode Island. Master’s Thesis, Rhode Island College.
  • Stollerman, Maurice. 194_. The State Home and School, Oaklawn School, Sockanosset School, Exeter School Survey. Providence, RI: Rhode Island Department of Social Welfare.

Newspaper articles and files

  • The Providence Public Library maintains an important card index of articles related to the State Home and School that appeared in the Providence Journal and Evening Bulletin. The index includes articles from 1890 through to 1983. The fullest reporting is for the period 1907 – 1979.  Articles can then be located by using microfilm files.
  • Davis, Marion. 2003. Life by life, an orphanage reassembled. Providence Journal , 23 July.
  • Kirk, Laura Meade. 2001. "Rhode Island's forgotten children." Providence Journal, 8 April.
  • Moses, James, and Deborah Becker. 2002. State Home and School Project. WRNI. Focus Rhode Island: Aired October 4, 2002

Printed in What’s News, the Rhode Island College newspaper

Primary documents and institutional reports

There are several sources for the annual reports published by the State Home and School and the successor institution, the Patrick O’Rourke Children Center.

These can be found at the State Archives, in the Library of the Rhode Island State House, at the Rhode Island Historical Society and in the collections maintained by the state’s institutions of higher education. Reports of special commissions to study the operation of the Home are found in the archives and in the State House Library. Primary documents, such as intake ledgers, diaries of Superintendents, visitors’ logs, and other materials related to the daily operation of the Home from the period 1885 - 19xx can be found at the Department of Children, Youth, and Families.

General background reading and resources

Following the publication of Platt’s The Child Savers (1977), scholars have examined the development of child saving institutions in the 19th century. Some of these works fault the “rescuers” for extending the state’s power and control into the lives of poor families. Other works examine the growth of the public welfare system linking this to progressive ideals of social betterment and reform.

  • Ashby, LeRoy. 1984. Saving the Waifs: Reformers and Dependent Children, 1890-1917. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
  • Crenson, Matthew A. 1998. Building the Invisible Orphanage: A prehistory of the American Welfare System. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  • Dulberger, Judith A. 1996. "Mother Donit for the Best": Correspondence of a Nineteenth-Century Orphan Asylum . Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.
  • Gish, Clay. 1999. Rescuing the 'Waifs and Strays' of the City: The Western Emigration Program of the Children's Aid Society." Journal of Social History 33:121-140.
  • Hasci, Timothy A. 1997. Second Home: Orphan Asylums and Poor Families in America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  • National Conference on Charities and Correction. 1893. History of Child Saving in the United States. Montclair, NJ: Patterson Smith.
  • Platt, Anthony M. 1977. Child Savers: The Invention of Delinquency . Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
  • Saslow, William. 2002. "Poor Intentions: Portsmouth Asylum in the Fabric of Rhode Island Social Reform." RaytheonEmployees Wildlife Habitat Committee.
  • Zmora, Nurith. 1994. Orphanages Reconsidered: Child Care Institutions in Progressive Era Baltimore. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

To learn more about the project contact Patricia Nolin, Special Assistant to the President, call (401) 456-9854, or email

To contribute to the oral history project contact Diane Martell at (email) or 401-456-8628 (phone).