Iowa Industrial School for Girls

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Iowa Industrial School for Girls
Established 1866
Opened 1868
Current Status Active
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Mitchellville, IA
Alternate Names
  • State Industrial School For Girls
  • Mitchellville Industrial School For Girls
  • Iowa Correctional Facility For Women (Current)


For 17 years Lorenzo and Angie Lewelling, ran the school at Mitchellville. The Lewellings were Quakers. Lorenzo was a minister. The Lewellings taught and guided the girls. Even after the girls left the school, Angie wrote to them. In the school's first 30 years, 804 girls lived at Mitchellville. Most of the girls were called "incorrigible."

Most of the girls were from poor families and had lost one or both parents through death or divorce. Sometimes when families had sudden problems, such as a lost job or a death in the family, a daughter was sent to Mitchellville because the family couldn't afford to keep her. One girl was from a wealthy family. She had tried to poison a step-parent. Most of them were 13 to 15 years old, though there were some as young as seven. Many of the girls had once lived on their own as maids or workers in button, candy or cigar factories. Three had traveled with acting groups.

Reform schools in Iowa provided a place for children with problems. In some cases the young people who attended the schools had no place else to go. Some of the children who were forced to attend Iowa's reform schools had good experiences and ended up having good lives as adults. But for others the reform school experience was bad. The reform schools of the past were the beginnings of the juvenile court system in Iowa.



The cemetery is on the southwest corner of the property of the current Women's Correctional Facility at Mitchellville Iowa, located on the west edge of town. This is a small cemetery that is about 50 feet by 50 feet, surrounded by a chain link fence,surrounded by a cornfield. The administration at the Women's Reformatory has no records regarding burials. The cemetery holds about 70 or so graves.