Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Boylan-Haven Helped Shape Black Women's Lives

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Boylan-Haven Helped Shape Black Women's Lives

Article excerpt

It was started in 1886 as a training center to teach black girls

to be servants.

During its 73-year history, it became a college preparatory

program for black girls and young women.

Boylan-Haven School for Girls exposed its students to well-known

people and prepared them to make their mark in the world.

The Woman's Home Missionary Union Society of the Methodist

Episcopal Church established the private school in North

Jacksonville. Within a few years it became the school for black

girls and young black women, until it closed in 1959.

The school's alumnae include corporate lawyers, journalists,

physicians, teachers, elected officials, a Broadway actress and


It served not only well-to-do students. Girls who could not pay

the tuition were assigned extra chores to compensate.

The curriculum included cooking, sewing, math, English, history,

music, foreign languages and Bible study.

Being a student at Boylan-Haven meant status and camaraderie,

said former student Linda Pearson Belton, president of the

Jacksonville alumnae association.

Belton, a retiree from Southern Bell who owns a wedding and

party planning business, said the sisterhood of the school's

students is alive and strong.

The school, originally named Boylan Industrial Training School

for Girls, began with the work of missionary and New Hampshire

transplant Harriett E. Emerson. She was the school's first

superintendent, and her six-room cottage became the first Boylan


It was named in honor of Ann Boylan DeGroot, treasurer of the

Newark Conference Women's Home Missionary Society. DeGroot gave

an initial $1,000 to the project and through the years another


A merger with Haven School of Savannah changed the name to

Boylan-Haven in 1932.

One of the histories of the school said: "During the dark days

of slavery, two large plantations with 300 slaves each bore that

name [Boylan]. Now to change the image, the family gladly gave

this name to a home whose objective was to educate and elevate a

race so long held in bondage and ignorance."

Many faculty members were white female graduates of such

colleges as Vassar or Radcliffe, but students said they never

felt even a twinge of racism. Instead, they bonded with these

women they saw as underpaid yet dedicated.

Belton was two years from graduation when the school closed in

1959. To help ease her sadness, Belton's best friend, who was in

the last graduating class, gave Belton the tassel from her


Somewhere along the way, it became apparent that residents who

sent their daughters to Boylan-Haven had something more in mind

for their children than common servitude. The school's mission

changed. The girls began to be equipped to pursue varied


For example, the nurse training course that started in 1901

became the foundation of Brewster Hospital, an all-black

hospital that was later purchased by Methodist Hospital.

"When I was in the eighth grade, we built a bank," Belton said.

"I was the president. We had a teller. …

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