16. Giving Boys and Girls Vocational Training instead of Factory Work: Lucy Flower
Lucy Louisa Coues, born in 1837 New England, was influenced by her mother’s temperance and abolitionist work. After completing her schooling, Lucy moved to Washington, DC where she worked in the United States Patent Office. By 1862, Lucy had moved to Madison, Wisconsin where she was a teacher and ran a private school. She met a young lawyer, James M. Flower, and the couple soon married. They had three children with the youngest one graduating from Harvard in 1893.
Most of the advocacy Lucy did was on behalf of children. By 1880, numerous children suffered from neglect and were considered to be delinquents. Locked out of their homes for safety reasons, the garbage-filled alleys and congested streets became their playgrounds. When children committed petty crimes, such as stealing candy from a newspaper stand, they were arrested and treated in the same manner as adult criminals. It was not uncommon for children to wait in a jail cell with a man accused of murder.
With assistance from other reformers, Lucy Flower was able to establish the world’s first juvenile court. The Cook County Juvenile Court opened in July 1899 and instead of sentencing children to jail time, it focussed on prohibition and rehabilitation. Children were offered a chance to walk the straight and narrow instead of entering into the prison system. With the inception of the Juvenile Court, hundreds of children were removed from the criminal justice system and even more had an opportunity to never enter into the system once their probation was completed.
Lucy Flower advocated for technical training for boys and girls. By providing children educational opportunities to develop technical skills they could end the cycle of factory work that was often the only form of income for their immigrant parents. In 1911, Lucy opened an all girls technical and vocational school. Enrollment in the school was open to anyone. As each year passed, more and more young women attended Lucy Tech. It was the only school in the city that was fully racially integrated, run by females, and for only girls. Lucy died in 1921 in Coronado, California. Today both juvenile courts and technical colleges exist because of Lucy Flower’s advocacy.