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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Gridley

Girls Industrial Home Inmate, Gertrude Richards

Updated: Jun 29, 2023


Gertrude's road to the Girls Industrial Home started in Terre Haute, Indiana at the Rose Orphan Home in Terre Haute, Indiana. From there she was placed out in a family home by Lyman Alden, the supervisor of the orphanage. Mr. Alden advocated for the children in his care, arguing that the care of fostered children was inadequate.

The book Fostering on the Farm recounts part of Gertrude's story. Gertrude was on her fourth placement out of the Rose Orphan Home when she ran away from a family called Malone. Mr. Alden was known for his views that children should be placed close to the orphanage, for efficient supervision, so in theory, Gertrude would have been somewhere close to Terre Haute, but the next news of Gertrude came from the police matron in Bloomington, Illinois.

That news was that Gertrude was remanded to the Girl's Industrial Home in Bloomington in 1910. Although I could not find the article recounting her remandment, children could be remanded for vagrancy and other petty crimes. As a girl, being out after bedtime was suspect, as was showing too much interest in boys. Girls were also removed from their homes when their home was a place of "ill repute." Gertrude's mother was living on West Jefferson Street in Bloomington and was called Mrs. Rodebeck, but we have no information about her employment. Gertrude ran away from the Industrial Home on more than one occasion, and the police officers questioned Mrs. Rodebeck when Gertrude escaped. Mrs. Rodebeck lied to the police and denied knowing where her daughter was, while her daughter was hiding in her house. In court she claimed that she did not know it was a crime to lie to a police officer. This was obviously a serious lapse in Mrs. Rodebeck's morals and merited a large column in the Pantagraph. Mrs. Rodebeck's position was not improving Gertrude's chances. Gertrude was remanded to the Home again.

A week later, Gertrude once again escaped from the Industrial Home, a place that did not even have a fire escape, so she may have climbed out a second story window. This escapade was performed in the company of another girl living there, Anna Gardner. The two girls led the police a long chase before they were found, and the police were seriously irritated with the two girls once they were apprehended. Gertrude was found first, and refused to tell where Anna was hiding. In court Gertrude mocked her questioners and told multiple false stories, constantly changing her story. In the Pantagraph she was painted to be a unrepentant juvenile delinquent.

The Girls Industrial Home washed their hands of Gertrude. She was not the "type" of girl they liked to have in their home. She was transferred to Home of the Good Shepherd in Peoria the day after her appearance in court. Where she went from there is anyone's guess.

Out of the blue, in 1931 Gertrude wrote to Mr. Alden and reported that she was working as an investigator for a private detective agency. Apparently Gertrude had gained some kind of stability in her life, but was not working in what would have been considered a "ladylike" position. Gertrude had moxie and wasn't going to be put in any one's corner.

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