Van Waters, Miriam, 1887-1974

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Miriam Van Waters, penologist, was born October 4, 1887, in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, the eldest living child (an older daughter died before Miriam was born) of George Browne (1865-1934) and Maude Vosburg (1866-1948) Van Waters. She had two sisters and two brothers: Ruth Van Waters Burton (1893-1967); Rebecca Van Waters Bartholomew (1898-1974?); George, Jr. (1899-19??); and Ralph (1906-). She graduated in 1904 from St. Helen's Hall in Portland, Oregon, and then attended the University of Oregon, where she earned a B.A. in Philosophy, 1908, and an M.A. in Psychology, 1910. She received a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1913.

From 1913 to 1932, Van Waters devoted her career to various aspects of juvenile care. She served as a special agent for the Boston Children's Aid Society, 1913; the superintendent of the Frazer Detention Home in Portland, Oregon, 1914-1915; the superintendent of Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles County, California, 1917-1920; director of the El Retiro School for Girls in Los Angeles, 1919-1920; and referee of the Juvenile Court in Los Angeles, 1920-1930. Van Waters was director of the juvenile delinquency section of the Harvard Law School Crime Survey, which began in 1926, and a consultant on juvenile delinquency for the National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement ("Wickersham Commission"), from 1928 probably until 1931. Throughout this period she also served on other government and university committees and commissions, participated in various professional organizations, delivered speeches and lectures, and wrote two books: Youth in Conflict (1925) and Parents on Probation (1927).

In 1932 Van Waters succeeded Jessie Hodder as the superintendent of the Reformatory for Women at Framingham, Massachusetts. Her progressive penal policies included: emphasizing psychological treatment, allowing mothers to keep their children with them at RW, and broadly interpreting the Massachusetts indenture system to allow for more day work. During her tenure there, several state officials along with local newspapers, launched critical attacks on Van Waters and her policies. After hearings in 1948, Van Waters was dismissed as Superintendent in January 1949. She was then reinstated by a governor's commission in March 1949, following further hearings and much publicity. She served as superintendent until her retirement in 1957. As in previous years, she was involved in other activities: teaching, serving on committees in professional organizations, delivering speeches, conducting research and writing.

In 1929 she assumed guardianship of a seven-year-old girl and renamed the child Sarah Ann. Van Waters, who never married, legally adopted Sarah in 1932. In 1941 Sarah Ann Van Waters (1922-1953) married Richard Hildebrandt. They had three sons before they were divorced in 1949: George (born 1941), Richard (born 1943), and Peter (born 1945). Sarah Hildebrandt was killed in a car accident in February 1953.

Miriam Van Waters suffered a stroke in 1972, and died on January 17, 1974.
Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Massachusetts. Reformatory for Women. Photographs of recreational events, 1911-1950 (bulk 1917-1924). Commonwealth of Massachusetts State Archives
referencedIn Papers, 1855-1992 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Glueck, Sheldon, 1896-1990. Papers, 1916-1972 Harvard Law School Library Langdell Hall Cambridge, MA 02138
creatorOf Van Waters, Miriam. Papers, 1861-1971 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Massachusetts Society for Social Health. Records, 1915-1965 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Records, 1948-1957 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Additional records, 1938-1973 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Beyer, Clara M. (Clara Mortenson). Papers of Clara Mortenson Beyer, 1911-1974 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Harvard Law School Forums Records Harvard Law School Library Langdell Hall Cambridge, MA 02138
referencedIn Ehrmann, Sara Rosenfeld, 1895-1993. Papers, 1859-1997 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Clement-Brown, Sibyl, 1899-. Papers, 1939-1958 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers of John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan, 1909-2006 Harvard Art Museums. Archives
referencedIn Row, Amy P., 1884-1977. Papers, 1934-1992 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Gladding, Anna Spicer, 1906-1992. Papers of Anna Spicer Gladding and Miriam Van Waters, 1855-1992 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Van Waters, Miriam, 1887-1974. Papers of Miriam Van Waters, 1926-1931 (inclusive). Harvard Law School Library Langdell Hall Cambridge, MA 02138
creatorOf Papers, 1926-1931 Harvard Law School Library Langdell Hall Cambridge, MA 02138
creatorOf Van Waters, Miriam. Correspondence with Johan Thorsten Sellin, 1949. University of Pennsylvania Library
referencedIn Rowse, Ethel Hobart. Papers, 1945-1949 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Evans, Elizabeth Glendower, 1856-1937. Papers, 1859-1944 (bulk: 1882-1944) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn League of Women Voters (Cambridge, Mass.). Records, 1916-ca.1976 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Sophia Smith Collection. Crime, prisons, and reform schools collection, 1850-1977. Smith College, Neilson Library
referencedIn Records, 1928-1931 Harvard Law School Library Langdell Hall Cambridge, MA 02138
referencedIn Friends of Framingham, Inc. Records, 1938-1973 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Dummer, Ethel Sturges, 1866-1954. Papers, 1766-1962 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1934-1992 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Ehrmann, Sara Rosenfeld, 1895-. Papers, 1910-1969 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Dummer, Ethel Sturges, 1866-1954. Papers, 1689-1962 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Crime, Prisons, and Reform Schools Collection MS 424., 1850-1977 Sophia Smith Collection
referencedIn Fitzgibbon, Mary Ellen. Papers, 1952-1953 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Van Waters, Miriam, 1887-1974. Papers, 1861-1971 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Comstock, Ada Louise. Papers, 1818-1982 (inclusive), 1887-1982 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1860-1967 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1915-1965 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Evans, Elizabeth Glendower, 1856-1937. Papers, 1859-1944 (inclusive), 1882-1944 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1911-1944 (inclusive), 1929-1937 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn Comstock, Ada Louise. Records of the President of Radcliffe College, 1923-1943 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Friends of Framingham, Inc. Additional records, 1938-1973 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
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associatedWith Loring, Bessie Brooks. person
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associatedWith MASSACHUSETTS SOCIETY FOR SOCIAL HEALTH corporateBody
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associatedWith Newell, Nancy. person
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memberOf Van Waters family family
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Place Name Admin Code Country
Los Angeles County CA US
Portland OR US
Greensburg PA US
Framingham MA US
Subject
Reformatories for women
Reformatories--United States
Abortion
Prison periodicals
Juvenile detention home
Reformatories
Corrections--Study and teaching
Social work education
United States. Wickersham Commission
Criminal law
Juvenile delinquency--United States
Abortion--Personal narratives
Religion--Societies
Family records
Juvenile delinquency
Criminal law--United States
Penal institutions
Correctional institution
Lesbianism
Harvard Law School Crime Survey
Social work with delinquents and criminals
Menstruation
Prisoners
African American women
Social workers
Prison reformers
Women--Social conditions
Capital punishment
Alcoholics--Rehabilitation
Occupation
Prison administration
Social workers
Prison reformers
Activity

Person

Birth 1887-10-04

Death 1974-01-17

Female

Americans

English

Information

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