Connecticut's Bad Girls

Returning Niantic's Women to Straight Path Hard Job

[Ethel Beckwith, Sunday Herald, 9 Apr 1950]


EDITOR'S NOTE: Today Heraldwoman Ethel Beckwith continues her tour of the state's "bad girl" farms.


How 16-and-over females of this "land of steady habits" get to the State Farm for Women at Niantic is a question that no adult modern needs to ask Elsie Shearer, the superintendent, though she has every answer there is.

A few are "graduates" of Long Lane in Middletown who have overstayed the age limit down there, 35 miles away.

Some are parolees who have been bad again, and they get the ride from Middletown to Niantic, which is a sad journey because it may mean that there is no return ticket to normal happiness.

Dolls, molls, trampies, professionals, the dumb-ox type, the girl who couldn't say no, the bored spouse who tried somebody else, the repeater - from pretty to hard to torrid, all these girls I saw in their rooms and in the corridors are the taxpayers' headaches in Miss Shearer's custody.

The average age is 20.

As you enter this 900-acre establishment, the first reaction is the "class" of the girls.

Obviously no wayward debutantes are around.

These girls are from poor or unprotective families.

Better-off parents don't blow the whistle on their own daughters.

A train ticket, a boarding school, or even a fast deal with a marriage license does wonders to hush-hush a girl in a jam.


Cooling-off is Big Job

Supt. Shearer, 26 years at this farm, assisted by Elizabeth MacKenzie of Waterbury, is an Iowa woman with an open mind, but a will like a rocket plane's.

She tries to see the girls as individuals. In almost every case, she says, the family is either broken up or at war.

One of Niantic's freshmen is a 26-year-old Bridgeport woman who entertained boyfriends in one furnished room in the presence of her nine-year-old daughter.

Her progress, if any, will be interesting.

Supt. Shearer's job is to get the girls cooled off and their entire social temperatures readjusted, so that they can go out and get the respectable work which will take the blot off their youthful years.

It's a complex family Miss Shearer runs, with a medical center, alcohol clinic, dairy farm, laundry, vast vegetable garden.... the girls who have yet to learn about honor-saving, preserved 17,000 cans last summer.


Board Terrific

The sentence to Niantic is "indeterminate three years."

But the minimum is six months, when a girl can get her first hearing with the board.

This is a great, hard-working and non-paid governor-appointed board that every two weeks meets at the farm to hear at least one girl's arguments for parole.

If she wins, a job is found for her generally as a maid because she has been rejected from home, or office work if she has that training, and one of Miss Shearer's bookkeepers banks part of her savings for her.

Eleanor Little of Guilford is chairman of this board, of which Gov. Bowles should be proud.