11. The Convent of the House of Good Shepherd in St. Louis, Missouri, a Home for “Wayward Girls”
St. Louis was a booming river city at the onset of the 19th century. When industry encroached upon the privacy of the wealthy, they donated or sold off their estates and moved to the country. In 1851, a prominent family donated their land and built a home for the Sisters of the Good Shepherd to house “wayward young women.” The stone and brick complex was not heated, took up an entire city block, and was incased by a 12 foot brick wall. Within the walls of the house unwed mothers gave birth to illegitimate children who were forcibly removed from their birthmothers and adopted.
Young women arrested for sex offenses were sent to the Home and forced to live cloistered lives as seamstresses, lace makers, and laundry girls. Their names were changed and they were forbidden contact from the outside world. When family members did arrive to take home their sisters or daughters, the were often greeted by a young woman who showed signs of physical abuse, starvation, and in some instances even pregnant (although she was not pregnant upon entering the convent!). In 1900 the convent moved to the western reaches of the city limits. Urban renewal forced the closure of the House of Good Shepherd in 1969.