Lawrence Public Library

Americanization Poster

Evening classes for working students started in 1859. They were run by the City Mission and taught by volunteers. By 1869, there were 300 pupils from 9 nations. In 1870, the Lawrence School committee took over responsibility for running the Evening School. At that time, a school for women and girls was housed in Oliver School and for men and boys in City Hall. Course work included reading and writing and architectural drawing. 1887 saw the enactment of a state law regarding the employment of minors over the age of 14 who could not read and write in the English language. Consequently, the size of the Evening School increased by 400 pupils to a total of 625. The students were being taught at schools all over the city.

In 1919, as the result of 400,000 draftees being unable to read in any language, Massachusetts enacted the Americanization Act. This law (Chapter 295) was created “to promote Americanization through the education of adult persons unable to use the English language.” The state would bear half of the expense of this program as long as the instruction was carried out under the aegis of the local school committee. In Lawrence, of the 35,729 workers, 23,034 were unable to speak English readily; 6,328 could speak English slightly; and 3,790 were not able to speak English at all. How many then could not read English? The Lawrence School Committee formally accepted the provisions of the Americanization Act in October of 1919. The evening school had been teaching English at that time to 64 men in the Oliver School. This new program was instituted as part of the Evening School. The number had increased to 500 by the spring of 1920. By the fall of 1920, 624 adults were being taught in 24 classrooms--14 of the rooms were in public school buildings, and the other 10 were halls, club rooms, and social centers. 16 nationalities were represented in these classes. Citizenship classes were also held: 209 men were instructed and 161 got their papers and, for the first time, 18 women took instruction and 14 were given certificates. Elizabeth Miles was appointed a full-time Americanization worker in May of 1921 under the Supervisor of the Evening School and Adult Immigrant Education. Training was given in Lawrence by the State Department of Education to prepare teachers for this work. From 1923 to 1935 Elizabeth C. Miles was Supervisor of Americanization and had her office in the Oliver School. In 1936, she became the Supervisor of Adult Immigrant Education.

This broadside was printed on stiff paper. It is somewhat dirty and torn. It measure 56 x 35 cm. The printing is in black and there is a black border around the text. The text reads: “!!Get ready!! For citizenship. Classes held in the Oliver, Essex & Packard Schools Mon., Wed., & Thurs. 7 to 9. For people who work nights classes are held in the Oliver School room 108 Mon., Tues., & Wed. mornings from 9 to 11. Groups for classes of 12 or more may be formed in your clubs. For more information see Miss Elizabeth C. Miles Supervisor of Americanization Office in the Oliver School.”

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