Van Waters, Miriam (1887–1974)
Estelle B. Freedman
The innovative and controversial penologist Miriam Van Waters began her career in the juvenile court movement of the Progressive era, wrote highly popular books about juvenile delinquency in the 1920s, and served for 25 years as superintendent of the Massachusetts Reformatory for Women at Framingham (1932–1957). Van Waters repeatedly triumphed over conservative critiques of her progressive correctional model, which emphasized inmate self-government, recreation, and maternal ties between staff and the women she called “students.” Van Waters's reformist ideas originated in the social gospel message of her father, George Browne Van Waters, a progressive Episcopalian clergyman. Her commitment to child saving had strong roots in her experiences as the eldest of five siblings. A graduate of St. Helen's Hall in Portland, Oregon, Van Waters earned BA (1908) and MA (1910) degrees in psychology at the University of Oregon. While she was studying at Clark University, where she completed a doctorate in ...