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Ventura Reformatory School for Girls
updated: Jun 11, 2011, 9:30 AM

By Angela, Fun in Ventura

Located in the foothills of West Ventura (off Ventura Avenue), the Ventura Reformatory School for Girls was established in 1913. The school became operational one year later when girls from the Whittier State Reformatory were transferred there. It was distinguished as the first school managed solely by women, including Mrs. Orpha Foster who lobbied for the school's construction and was a trustee for two years. Intended for girls with social issues, the school taught domestic science and grammar courses.

In 1942, five women associated with the "Zoot Suit Sleepy Lagoon trial" were incarcerated there. By then, the school's image had changed and was known as a draconian facility with a hellish reputation. Girls were reported as taking drastic measures to avoid the school, including swallowing safety pins. The school closed in 1962 when the girls were moved from the Ventura location to the California Youth Authority in Camarillo. The Ventura site is now the home of Vista Del Mar Hospital.

You mentioned a cannon that was possibly across the street from the school. To our knowledge, there was no cannon near the Ventura School for Girls. However, there is a cannon in Plaza Park across the street from the post office on Santa Clara Street, where Plaza Grammar and High school used to exist.

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Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 COMMENT 182145 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-06-11 05:16 PM

Great local history lesson - thanks! Would love to know how and why the school changed into the hell house it became - sounds like that would also be an interesting story!


 COMMENT 203686 agree helpful negative off topic

2011-08-13 03:39 PM

Wow, that is a very interesting fact to learn about our town. I'm almost surprised I had never known that before. To Claire, the school must of changed because the wrong kind of people started running it, but it would be interesting to learn the actual chain of events of what happened there.


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