The Ladd School

About Us

The Ladd School

The Ladd School Historical Society

The Ladd School Historical Society is a private organization dedicated to uncovering the complex histories of institutions like the Dr. Joseph H. Ladd Center in Exeter, Rhode Island, and exploring the legacy of state hospitals, schools, prisons, and reformatories in New England and beyond.

Our Mission

The Ladd School Historical Society's mission is built upon over twenty years of dedicated research and archival work. Our focus spans the historical breadth of the institution from the turn of the 20th century to modern times, with a particular emphasis on the pre-war era. This was a period characterized by outdated terms like "feeble-mindedness" for developmental disabilities and "inmates" for the institution's residents.

We recognize that some aspects of the Ladd School's history, including key events, linguistic norms, and social mores, may be challenging to confront. Our intention in bringing these elements to light is not to cast judgment on any individual or organization, past or present, but to acknowledge these truths as part of our collective history.

Our commitment to uncovering and sharing even the most difficult parts of the Ladd School's story stems from a belief that understanding our past, in all its complexity, is essential for fostering a more informed and empathetic society. By providing a thorough and respectful examination of these historical realities, we aim to honor the experiences of those who lived through them and to encourage thoughtful reflection and learning among current and future generations.

In doing so, our goal is not to sensationalize or dwell on suffering, but to ensure that the lessons of the past contribute to a more inclusive and understanding world. Through this work, we aspire to engage our community in meaningful dialogue about how history informs our present and guides us toward a more compassionate future.


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More to See

Books | Non-Fiction

True stories from the Ladd School

Collections | Historical

Over 2,000 collected materials

History | Learn More

About the Ladd School
Exeter Girls: Letters From a Feeble-Minded School on
Exeter Girls: Letters From a Feeble-Minded School on

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I go to the Ladd School and shoot a film or conduct a paranormal investigation?
We don't own, manage, or govern the property. So do whatever you want; it makes no difference to us.
Can you help me find my long lost relative?
Probably not, but if you provide a name and dates we'll add them to our list.