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Organization & Establishment

In 1909, power was given to judges of probate to commit any they deemed appropriate to the now-labeled School for the Feeble Minded:

Chapter 167 of the Public Laws of the State of Maine as Passed by the 74th Legislature, 1909 1909 Public Law, Chapter 167: Sidebar: Judge of probate may commit to school for feeble minded. Main Body: Section 5: Whenever it is made to appear, upon application to the judge of probate for any county and after due notice and a proper hearing, that any person resident in said county, or any inmate to the Maine Industrial School for girls, the State School for Boys, the Bath Military and Naval Orphan Asylum, or any person supported by any town, is a fit subject for the Maine School for Feeble Minded, such judge may commit such person to said school by an order of commitment directed to the trustees of said School for Feeble Minded accompanied by a certificate of two physicians who are graduates of some legally organized medical college and have practiced three years in this state, that such a person is a proper subject for said institution. Whenever, upon such application [cut off]…
1909 Public Law, Chapter 167

In 1911, the Legislature established a Board of Trustees to oversee the School, as well as the “insane hospitals” in Augusta and Bangor:

Chapter 197 of the Public Laws of the State of Maine as Passed by the 75th Legislature, 1911 Main body: An Act to consolidate the management of state institutions for the Insane and Feeble Minded. Be it enacted by the People of the State of Maine, as ,follows :Section 1. Section one of chapter one hundred and forty four of the revised statutes relative to insane hospitals and the first two paragraphs of section two of chapter one hundred and forty-four of the public laws of nineteen hundred and seven, relative to the Maine school for feeble minded, are hereby repealed and the offices of trustees of said institutions, created by said sections, are hereby declared vacant. Section 2. The governor shall with the advice and consent of the council appoint one board of seven trustees of said institutions, all of whom shall be inhabitants of this state, and one of whom shall be a woman. The woman first appointed shall serve for five years, and the terms of the other trustees first appointed shall be fixed as follows: two for three years; two for two years and two for one year, respectively. All trustees thereafter appointed shall serve for four years, except that any appointment made to fill a vacancy shall be for the unexpired term; provided, however, that any trustee appointed under the provisions of this act may be removed at any time by the governor and council. Sidebar: Section 1, chapter 144, R. S., and part of section 2, chapter 144, public laws 1907, repealed. Trustees of Insane hospitals and Maine school for feeble minded, number and tenure of office. -vacancy. How filled. -proviso. Shall be known as "Hospital Trustees." Powers and duties of trustees.
1911 Maine Law Chapter 197

In 1913, the Trustees of the School reported to the Legislature on the “most excellent work” being accomplished at the fledgling institution, despite great needs for better infrastructure and more funding to increase the population of residents – calls that would continue throughout the next 93 years. Their report demonstrates the thinking around working with people with developmental disabilities – that the goal was to make those that could be into capable and productive workers, while those that could not rise to that measure were an afterthought.

1913 Report of the Trustees of the Maine School for Feeble Minded The various teachers are doing most excellent work among this very unfortunate class of inmates. At first sight, and with slight acquaintance, it would seem almost impossible to improve them, but with the careful study of individuals on the part of the teachers, and unwearied patience, the results are surprising, especially among the younger portion. It is to be desired that the School shall be largely filled with this class of inmates. The Trustees are sending back to the various towns the old and feeble men and women who are unable to do any work, in order to give room for the younger applicants who need the advantages of the institution so much more than the old and feeble. The care that most towns are able to give to their dependent poor, will provide equally good homes as are found here. We believe that this plan will ensure to the greatest good to the greatest number.
1913 Report of the Trustees of the Maine School for Feeble Minded

By 1914, the State Board of Charities and Corrections, which was the department in the Maine government overseeing the operation of both jails and institutions like Pineland, was echoing calls to expand the School, stating, “A conservative estimate…indicates that the state must plan to care for, altogether, at least 1500 persons of this class.” This report then suggested that “if their number is not to increase faster than the ability of the state to care for them…preference shall be given to females between the ages of 12 and 50 years, who are capable of bearing children.” The call to control the ability of those of “feeble mind” to reproduce would gather steam into the next decades.

In 1914, there were 253 people residing at the School for the Feeble Minded.

In 1915, a law passed to “prevent the aiding or abetting of the escape of inmates of the Maine School for Feeble Minded” placed fines and threats of imprisonment to any that might “knowingly harbor or conceal any one who has escaped” from the school. “Fugitives” from the School could also be arrested and returned.

In 1917, a law was added that allowed transfer of inmates of the two State Juvenile institutions, the State School for Boys and the State School for Girls, if they were “feeble minded” or “after his commitment, becomes feeble minded”:

Chapter 130 of the Public Laws of the State of Maine as Passed by the 78th Legislature, 1917 Sec. 4. Inmates of either institution may be recommitted to school for feeble minded. Any boy now under the guardianship of the state school for boys, or who may hereafter be committed there, who is feeble minded, or who, after his commitment, becomes feeble minded, or any girl now under the guardianship of the state school for girls, or who may hereafter be committed there, who is feeble minded, or who, after her commitment, becomes feeble minded, may be transferred by the trustees of juvenile institutions, to the Maine School for the Feeble Minded. In such event the trustees of juvenile institutions, by their president or secretary, shall endorse on the original mittimus the fact that the boy or girl is feeble minded, and attach thereto a certificate from a regular practicing physician within the state certifying that the boy or girl is feeble minded, and shall obtain from the superintendent of the said school for the feeble minded a certificate stating in substance that such boy or girl will be received under the provisions of section fifty-one of chapter one hundred and forty-five of the revised statutes. Then upon the delivery of the boy or girl to the officers of the Maine School for the Feeble Minded, together with the original mittimus and certificates herein provided, it shall be the duty of the officers of the Maine School for the Feeble Minded to receive such boy or girl, and thereafter the trustees of juvenile institutions shall cease to have any authority over such boy or girl, and the hospital trustees [cut off]
1917 Maine Law Chapter 130

By 1918, the School for the Feeble Minded had 278 residents.

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Theme Alert!



Waitlists have occurred since the very beginning of services. Many people who could benefit from services to live more supported and independent lives instead languish on waitlists.

In the past, superintendents of Pineland used the need of more beds as an excuse to call for a larger institution.

Today, waitlists for services are an ever-increasing problem. Children, despite a diagnosis can’t access the inventions that could change their lives and as a result, their needs often become so challenging that they end up in significantly more restrictive and costly placements than they would have needed if they had gotten the right service at the right time. Young people who have been supported through the school system can find themselves waiting years to access adult services.  People in the disability field call this period “the cliff” when youth are without services and supports and many of the skills that they worked so hard to achieve begin to erode and their future feels like it might slip away.  Adults who have services learn that they are stuck in poverty, single, or unable to move as their services may be at risk if they make to much money, get married or move.  Life decisions that most of us view as our right can mean starting the process of securing services all over again, making opportunities to grow and be fulfilled as an adult also fraught with anxiety.