by Mrs. Weld Morgan of Spencer, Massachusetts


September 22, 1963


Miss Little, Mrs. York, distinguished guests and associates of the Connecticut State Farm for Women: It is a great honor for me to be here with you today to join in the unveiling of this plaque to the memory of Elizabeth Munger. First, may I express the appreciation we all feel to those who have made this occasion possible? Dr. Edith Mac Leod, so long responsible for the health of this institution, conceived the idea for this memorial and our thanks go to her for untiring efforts. Also to Miss Munger's two sisters, Mrs. Adams and Mrs. Souder who have worked along with her. Thank you, Mrs. York, for permittlng this expression of esteem to be held here and for your hospitality on this memorable occasion. It is a small token for those of us whose lives were enriched by association with this remarkable woman.

Elizabeth Munger was born and grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She was one of nine children in a devoted, close-knit family. After graduation from the University of Chicago in 1906, she entered a brilliant teaching career in English and editorial work. Writing, reading and travel were to remain an avocation throughout her life. It is regrettable that illness pevented the publication of the stories that were in her notebooks and in her imaginative mind for years.

At the advent of World War I, patriotism carried her into Red Cross and hospital work. She used to tell of the conditions she found during the War; stating that in this land of liberty, we were not far removed from the alms-house days Dickens described so graphically in his novels. So with this social conscience, it was only a short step to her active interest in human rights and prison reform.

In 1918, Miss Munger became the assistant superintendent of the New Jersey State Home for Girls in Trenton, under her long-time friend, Dr. Mary B. Harris.

It was at this time that the idea for classification was first conceived by Dr. Katherine B. Davis, Doctor Harris and Miss Munger through their mutual interest and friendship and it was decided that Miss Munger should develop and introduce this plan into the state Home for girls. This concept was soon adopted by the progressive State of New Jersey and used in all New Jersey State Institutions.

It is hard to believe that such an accepted procedure today was THEN considered so revolutionary. Up to this time, offenders in most states were not considered as individual human beings but as a number and name in a filing cabinet. The idea that each person should be tested, studied and helped to spend her time in a most constructive way for her future and for the good of the institution had infinite possibilities.

This accomplishment behind her, Miss Munger served for two years as executive secretary for the Women's Division of the National Committee on Prisons and Prison Labor and became a foremost recognised authority in this field.

On July 1, 1926, Miss Munger accepted the challenge of becoming Superintendent of the infant institution which the Connecticut legislature had authorized eight years before in Niantic, called The Connecticut State Farm For Women. This was her greatest challenge. Here was the opportunity to put into practice the theories and ideals in which she fervently believed.

This modern, efficient, fire-proof institution you see here today is far removed from what was here in 1926. The State had purchased a series of adjoining farms with their various wooden houses, barns and outbuildings widely separated from each other so fire and security hazards were a great problem. There was crowding of both staff and inmates,- at times beds were put up in offices and taken down each morning. This institution had been closed to all commitments for two years except for emergencies because of the extremely crowded conditions.

However, the location was beautiful, the farm land was fertile and, under the alert supervision of Arthur J. Beebe, became so productive that he was providing excellent fruits, vegetables and meats not only for Niantic but for other institutions as well. Miss Munger often said, "Mr. Beebe is invaluable and indispensible."

Miss Munger's FIRST GREAT CONTRIBUTION to Connecticut was the introduction of the classification System in 1926. This system was now working well in other states. Thus began the individual treatment of offenders in Connecticut.

Miss Munger's belief that morality could not be legislated but could only be instilled by example, education and opportunity really worked. Also that a healthy mind needs a healthy body, so great emphasis was placed on the medical and bealth program. A new treatment center was erected to provide facilities for the latest scientific care of social diseases and the many problems to be solved with alcoholics and the ever increasing number of drug addicts. Necessary legislation was inaugurated for the care of the feeble minded and the mentally defective.

A new modern maternity hospital provided prospective mothers with proper prenatal care and emotional security while suitable plans could be worked out for the future of the babies.

Miss Munger conceived the practical plan for the development of the institution AS A HOMOGENOUS GROUP OF FIRE-PROOF buildings, including work areas, vocational and recreational facilities. I quote from her 1926 Biennial Report, "No one feature of institutional life is of more importance to the maintenance of good morale than frequent assemblies for religious, educational and recreational purposes."

Blessed with a fine Board of Trustees who supported her all the way, Miss Munger's perceptive and creative mind soon became respected and admired by appropriation committees and the legislature. She knew what she wanted, was articulate in describing her objectives, to her Board and others, and was thus helped by other state agencies. She used to say, "We are all in this together." I remember Dr. John Goss, one of her Boardmembers, saying one day at luncheon, "It is stimulating to see Miss Munger in action. Her mind works like a man's."

Governor Cross said, "ALL of our state institutions are seeking funds but Elizabeth Munger's dedication, forceful presentation and vision never cease to astound appropriation committees and we in Hartford are proud to see one of the great correctional institutions of the country unfolding before our eyes in Niantic."

New and approved techniques in treatment and rehabilitation were enhanced with the completion of the Industrial building with its fine auditorium and classrooms. Music and education received new impetus. Plays, Fairs, Operattas were held for the pleasure of both the staff and the girls.

Girls who liked to sew made the pretty house dresses. Girls who liked to cook worked in the kitchens and cannery. Girls who liked to garden grew vegetables and those who liked animals milked the cows and fed the chickens and the pigs. Girls whose testing pointed to further education were given the opportunity to go to school. Each girl contributed where her abilities produced the highest good for smooth running of the Institution and would prove of most benefit to her in her future life. Always foremost was the ultimate objective -- to return to the community a well-adjusted person, able to take the responsibility of good citizenship.

Another GREAT CONTRIBUTION Miss Munger made to Connecticut was the development and growth of a superb and outstanding parole department. She believed that good parole supervision was a very important part of rehabilitation and she sought highly-trained and dedicated women and their constant vigilance, understanding and sympathy, although constantly overworked, achieved great respect and fame for the institution. The percentage of returnees dropped well below the national average. Miss Munger never failed to give recognition to the effort and long, late hours contributed by this department. Consequently, Niantic bccame a study ground for students and scholars of social work practices not only here but abroad as well.

By 1930, the biggest building program was completed and in this year the legislature voted to transfer women prisoners from Wethersfield to Niantic and to create the new Connecticut State Prison for Women. Miss Munger was designated the first woman warden in the history of Connecticut.

Miss Munger would not wish the various honors and accolades that were bestowed upon her mentioned, but there were many. She had the ability to draw excellent, devoted workers to her staff, gave them credit where credit was due and delegated authority and trust. With this exceptional administrative ability and the teamwork of her devoted staff, it was understandable how the Connecticut State Farm for Women became the most outstanding institution of its kind in the country.

Elizabeth Munger was a dynamic yet modest woman; a woman of solid opinions, high motives and standards. She achieved great things with little fanfare. She was most personable, gracious, generous to a fault, and endowed with a quiet sense of humor that her intimates and associates found delightful. She was not a conformist to the mass standards and changing whims of the so-called "culture;" she lived in a higher realm where objectivity, selflessness, taste and intelligence were the very important things. Once she said that one of the keys to the meaning of life was awareness; a sensitiveness to what was really going on in others. She had this empathy, this sympathy -- a capacity to feel with experiences what others were feeling. It was a great insight, this ability to see something more than the outside of a situation and to get to the very heart of the matter.

It will be a long, long time before we see another like her! In the meantime this institution she created and served so ably continues to grow and can remain, under the capable administration of Mrs. York, a living monument, shedding light for students of social work everywhere, and CAN continue to have greater and more effective success in the rehabilitation of misguided, mistaken, and mangled lives - an example of democracy at its very best. Miss Munger COULD ASK FOR NOTHING FINER.