Adrian Home Girl


The young woman who sat for this photograph is identified on the reverse as Inez Swartz.  The photographers Genevieve Dey & Grace Hayden, worked together in Hillsdale, Michigan, from 1899 to no later than 1904, which helps to date this image.


The words “Adrian Home girl” penned below the name was in reference to the Industrial School for Girls.  The school was founded in 1879 in Adrian, Michigan, for the care and training of female juvenile offenders between the ages of seven and twenty.  In various newspaper articles of the time girls living at the school were referred to as Adrian Home girls.

The label juvenile offender was slapped on these young girls for countless reasons, including running away from home, homelessness, poor home environment, or any behavior that was considered unbecoming.  A girl could be sent to the school for simply being strong-willed, stubborn, or hard to control.

Just look at the following cases of Lillian Hacker, Jessie Smieh, Cora VanDyke, Glen Thomas, Carrie Yax, and Rose Ludwig as examples:

1905 May 28 ADRIAN HOME GIRL Detroit Free Press MI
May 28, 1905 ~ Detroit Free Press (MI)
1898 Jun 28 ADRIAN HOME Detroit Free Press
June 28, 1898 ~ Detroit Free Press (MI)
1892 Dec 23 ADRIAN HOME Owosso Times MI
Dec. 23, 1892 ~ Owosso Times (MI)
1915 Oct 20 Adrian Home Detroit Free Press MI
Oct. 20, 1915 ~ Detroit Free Press (MI)

I spent a lot of time searching for an Inez Swartz whose race was recorded as Black or Mulatto.  Later I realized that, although it appears clear to me that our sitter wasn’t white, I was wrong to assume that she wouldn’t have identified as white.  Therefore, I abandoned those search criteria.

Researching this photo has been quite an adventure, spanning three years.  Although I discovered quite a number of possibilities, I found it difficult to give up the hunt for the perfect match…until now.  I finally accepted the fact that I’m simply not able to identify this sitter with any surety, and the best I can do is share some of the theories I came across.  Please remember that the following is based on supposition, not certainty.

The first search I did on Ancestry for Inez Swartz, born about 1886, brought up a record for an Inez Culp, which I disregarded.  Mrs. Culp’s maiden name was Yoder.  I remember thinking it was ridiculous that this would have been the first hit displayed, and I moved on. However, upon failing to locate a perfect fit, I decided I would investigate Mrs. Culp further.

Inez Yoder was raised near Kalamazoo, Michigan, as the youngest daughter of Henry and Sarah Yoder.  In May 1900, Henry died of heart and lung disease.  Two years later, Sarah succumbed to tuberculosis.  Based on these tragic circumstances, it’s quite plausible that 16-year-old Inez, living just 90 miles west of the Adrian Home for Girls, might have ended up there.  I’m sure you are scratching your head and wondering, “how in the heck could Inez have been the young woman from the cabinet photo when her last name wasn’t Swartz?”  Here’s where a whole lot of conjecture comes in…

According to the 1930 census, Inez and her husband Ray Culp had a houseguest.  Inez’s widowed eldest sibling, Mrs. Elmira Swartz.  The bombshell is that Elmira wasn’t listed as a sister-in-law to Ray, but instead as the mother-in-law.  Bam!   Based on this, I’m led to believe that Elmira was actually Inez’s biological mother.  (Elmira would have been 17 and unwed at the time Inez was born.)

A clue that bolsters my speculation is that up until at least 1882, when Henry and Sarah Yoder’s daughter Susie was born, the Yoder family were living in Wadsworth, Ohio.  Inez was born in 1886, in Kalamazoo County, Michigan, some 250 miles west of Wadsworth and this is where the family resided from then on.  Did they move from their home in Ohio so that Inez could be raised as Elmira’s sibling, and therefore cover up their daughter’s illegitimate pregnancy and protect her reputation?

Still, many questions need to be answered.  If Inez Yoder is indeed our sitter, why did the author of the writing identify her as Inez Swartz?  Elmira’s married name was Swartz and I believe it’s probable that during the illness, or after the death, of Sarah Yoder that Elmira attempted to take on a parenting role.  In this case, Inez may have been using her step-father’s surname of Swartz when she was sent to the Adrian Home for Girls.

BBERENICE left and mother SUSIE YODER right
Right ~ Susie (Yoder) Lighthiser and Left ~ Susie’s daughter Berenice

On Ancestry, I came across the above snapshot of the youngest Yoder child, Susie.  I contacted the descendant who shared it, but unfortunately, they do not have any photos of Elmira or Inez and couldn’t direct me to anyone who might have them.  I also located a great-grandson of Inez, but again, they were unable to help.

1962 Sep 3 YODER Inez OBIT Battle Creek Enquirer MI
Sep. 3, 1962 ~ Battle Creek Enquirer (MI)

Inez Yoder was a nurse at the Michigan Asylum for the Insane in Kalamazoo, Michigan, until the birth of her son Eldon in 1911.  Widowed in 1937, she resided at the County Poor Farm in 1940, where she worked as a cook.  Inez passed at the age of 75 in 1962 and is buried in the South Fulton Cemetery in Kalamazoo.

As mentioned earlier, I have more theories about our sitter’s identity, which I’ll share in the next couple of days.  Stay tuned!

Census records
Find a Grave
Juvenile Delinquency: Historical, Cultural & Legal Perspectives, pub. 2001
In the Archives: Criminal Girls
State Industrial School for Girls
“Early Adrian”, presented by the American Association of University Women, Adrian, Michigan, 1964, Swenk-Tuttle Press, revised 1973

17 thoughts on “Adrian Home Girl

  1. Great sleuthing! I wonder what life was like at the Adrian Home. It’s interesting that the “girls” were kept there until they turned 21. Apparently by that age they were mature enough to stay out of trouble (in the opinion of the authorities).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll be posting Parts 2 and 3 during the week and Part 3 goes into more depth about the Home itself. I was very surprised that they were kept there until 21 when it seemed common during this time for girls to marry at 16/17 years.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting theory, perhaps a bit convoluted, but not impossible, of course. I get very worked up about how young girls were treated this way and the examples you provided — grrr. It’s like when a girl gets pregnant, it’s as if the boy had no role in the matter at all.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Do you have any pictures from around 1930
    or census info my Grandmother was suppose to be there Arvilla Bentson


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