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Living and Working in the Institution, 1890–1920 

Living and Working in the Institution, 1890–1920
Living and Working in the Institution, 1890–1920

James W. Trent

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date: 27 February 2021

Chapter 4 considers the internal workings of the American institution between 1890 and 1920, when public and private institutions increased in size and spread in number. The institution in its growing population and bureaucratic complexity involved many actors. At the institution was a staff hierarchy—from ward attendants and “high-grade imbeciles” providing direct care to bakers, cooks, construction workers supplying day-to-day maintenance; from teachers providing the 3-Rs to farm hands supervising the inmates who provided produce and meat for the institution; and from matrons who supervised daily activities to the superintendent and his assistants who provided organization control. Besides the actors at the institution, there were parents and relatives who interacted with their institutionalized children. The chapter uses letters, diaries, institutional reports, and photographs to construct the meaning of the institution from the perspectives of its various actors.

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