Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

Christa M. Beranek

Second Advisor

David B. Landon

Third Advisor

Nedra Lee


This thesis examines the ceramics, both full-scale and toy, and dolls recovered from the Industrial School for Girls (1859-1941) in Dorchester, MA, in order to assess the ways in which the Managers who ran the School used material culture to enculturate the girls, as well as how the girls used material culture to shape their own identities. This site provides a unique opportunity to study the archaeology of a single-gender, and predominately single-class and single-age. The Industrial School for Girls, as an institution whose aim was to better the lives of poor girls and give them economic opportunities, as well as to create a better class of domestic servants, embodies the complicated moralities of Victorian domesticity, gentility, and womanhood. Analysis of the function and style of adult and doll scale ceramic vessels indicates the control that the Managers had over the School’s material culture and how it was used to expose the girls to the proper goods that would help shape them into successful and well-behaved domestic servants. The ceramic vessels represented some of the forms required by the etiquette of the time to set a proper dining table, and many of them exhibit Gothic and floral motifs, representing purity and morality in the home. These items suggest that the Managers were making an effort to include the material culture of a proper Victorian home in order to raise their girls to be comfortable in and enculturated to that environment. The porcelain dolls recovered from the site, in both their number and condition, hint at some amount of material self-fashioning among the girls, suggesting that perhaps not all of their experiences were pleasant ones. The fact that so many dolls were discarded in the privy suggests that there was some manner of discontent among the girls that was taken out on their own dolls or the dolls of others.