Women's History
Mack Industrial School
Associated Salem women:
• Esther C. Mack

Salem sites:
The House of the Seven Gables     Settlement House
The First Church in Salem
17 Pickman Street — Privately owned

At the time of her death in 1884, Esther C. Mack made a bequest in her will for the establishment of a school to provide employment training for women. She was not alone. In industrialized cities throughout the nation, the growing number of immigrants who arrived in this country to work in the factories and mills had children, including daughters, who needed to learn a trade. The North Bennet Street School in Boston, founded by Pauline Agassiz Shaw in 1881, is a shining example of an industrial school that was established in this era and continues today to train highly skilled artisans.

Esther Mack's wish was carried out in 1897 when the Mack Industrial School was organized by her friend Alfred Stone and a committee of prominent Salem women. By 1908, enrollment had grown to more than five hundred students.

Young women between the ages of fourteen and eighteen who wished to become seamstresses or dressmakers’ assistants enrolled in a twelve-month, five-day-a-week course that also included a three-month apprenticeship in the field. The school also offered classes in millinery, embroidery, gardening, domestic skills, English, arithmetic, hygiene, and physical training.

As the Boston Globe reported in 1906, “girls of Salem were to be taught useful and ornamental arts as well as occupations by which they could support themselves honestly and profitably.”1 The brick residence on Pickman Street was purchased and utilized for the school until the late 1920s.

Another Salem institution that was established to provide education and skills training to Salem's newcomers in the late nineteenth century was The House of the Seven Gables Settlement House, founded by Caroline Emmerton.

Both Caroline Emmerton and Esther Mack were members of the socially progressive North Church, which is today The First Church in Salem.

Boston Globe, June 17, 1906.   
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