Oklahoma State Industrial School for Girls

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Oklahoma State Industrial School for Girls
Construction Began 1915
Opened 1917
Current Status Active
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Tecumseh, OK
Alternate Names
  • Russell Industrial School
  • Russell Industrial School for White Girls
  • Oklahoma State Industrial School for Incorrigible Girls
  • Girls Town
  • Oklahoma State Industrial School for White Girls
  • Central Oklahoma Juvenile Treatment Center
  • Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center (Current)


In 1907 the Russell Industrial School for White Girls, or the Russell Sage Foundation, was established in Oklahoma City close to the Capital building. It was a private institution caring for white girls placed in it's care by contract from the Governor when such girls were committed to the care of the Governor by the juvenile court system. A school library was formed by donations from "Big Sister Clubs" which included over 800 books and reading materials. At Christmas time, not only the girls at the Industrial School but also children at other orphanages, were "adopted" by women of the Big Sister Club and special received gifts.

In 1917 the school was adopted as a state industrial school and gradually became known as the "State Industrial School for White Girls". At this time the school was placed under the supervision of the State Board of Public Affairs. The Board stating "Every girl admitted to this institution is clothed, fed, disciplined and instructed according to the rules and regulations of the institution, as are made by the Board." Girls were released from the school when they were 18, or when they obtained special parole by the superintendent and the Board. If the girls were released early, the Board stated that she may be released to "any resident of the State who is in good moral standing and with any additional stipulations as prescribed by the Board."

The school and Board soon adopted a complex honors system wherein there were stages and a given time limit before girls were able to be selected to "move up" in the system. Upon entry to the school girls automatically were at the level of "Probationer" which they stayed at for at least 3 months. She may then be promoted to the "Climbers" group, and at the end of another 2 months, the "Honor" group. In another month she may then enter the "Honor Stripe" which she must wear 3 months before she is eligible for parole. The highest honor, carrying extra responsibilities but with a higher chance at parole.

In 1919 the State Legislature appropriated money for buildings for the school, with an additional $44,000 being appropriated if the Board decided to move the school from its current position close to the Capital buildings in Oklahoma City. Under the provisions of this act the school was moved to Tecumseh in September 1921 and given the official renaming to the Oklahoma State Industrial School for White Girls. The school was set on 30-acres of a 147.7-acre plat of land where it still exists today.

Construction on new buildings began soon after moving to Tecumseh in 1921 and included; employees' buildings, a main schoolhouse building, laundry, two girls cottages, a playground, infirmary, bath house, and a bakeshop, as well as roads and sidewalks, a sewer system, and a number of cows, hogs, and chickens as well as housing for the livestock.

In 1926 they added the following wood-framed buildings to the school; vocational building, dining hall, community house, a brick storehouse, and additional poultry houses. In 1928 the Board approved adding two additional brick cottages to the school property, adding two more in 1930.

In 1931 there were 222 "inmates", or girls, at the school. In 1934 there were 248 girls living at the school, and they were given an education through 8th grade. After 8th grade the education given was mainly vocational, typewriting or stenography. To discipline the girls matrons often removed honors, however the school also had what they called a "gloom house". Described by the superintendent, the gloom house was a "3-room building with modern conveniences, electric lights and water", but was in fact a jail with concrete walls and steel-barred cells. When girls were deemed not worthy of interacting with other girls they were confined to the jail for a period. For example an account from 1933 when 2 girls were punished in this way for thinning each others eyebrows. The matrons also resorted to "spanking" the girls with belts. For using vile language or fighting a girl might be spanked, with the spanking being witnessed by 4 other members of the staff (often men), and is done by a woman. The administrators and matrons believing about the public spanking that "The humiliation awakens the girl, especially if witnessed by male members of staff, as the girls do not like them to know that they have been naughty as the men umpire their games, take them on hikes and sometimes hunting" as was an account from a matron in 1934. (Under the administration preceding the one in power in 1934 even more objectionable methods of control were being used such as Saltpeter.)

Now known as the Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center, the school buildings have been demolished and built up again over the years. It was previously operated by the Department of Human Services but has been under the jurisdiction of the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs since 1995. It is one of Oklahoma's "secure treatment facilities" where "residential programs provide rehabilitative for treatment to the Office of Juvenile Affairs' youth, who have been adjudicated as Youthful Offenders or delinquents and placed in OJA custody." The COJC sits directly on the same 30-acres of the original 147.7-acre plat. It is a co-ed center and has 72 beds.[1][2][3][4]