The Ladd School Historical Society | Rhode Island


The forefathers, founders and administrators of the Ladd School tell the tale of its history in their own words.


Phillipe Pinel

Phillipe Pinel

Physician, b.1745 - d.1826

"In all public asylums as well as in prisons and hospitals ... the only method of securing health, good order, and good manners, is ... execution of the natural law of bodily labour...."

A Treatise on Insanity (1806)
Jean-Marc Daspard Itard

Jean-Marc Gaspard Itard

Physician, b.1774 - d.1838

"Here is a subnormal boy who has lacked civilizing experience. If I give him this experience, he will become normal."

Lieberman, L. M. (1982). Itard: The Great Problem Solver. Journal Of Learning Disabilities
Edward Seguin

Edouard Seguin

Physician, b.1812 - d.1880

"Not one idiot in a thousand has been entirely refractory to treatment ... to conform to social and moral law ... and to working like the third of a man...."

(1889) Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biograph
Samuel Gridley Howe

Samuel Gridley Howe

Founder, MA School for Feeble-Minded

"The humanity and justice of our rulers will prompt them to take immediate measures for the formation of a school or schools for the instruction and training of idiots."

(1848) Report Made to the Legislature of Massachusetts Upon Idiocy

"Colonization seems ... to be the ideal and perfectly satisfactory method."

Goddard, Henry H. (1913) The Kallikak Family


Dr. Walter E. Fernald

Dr. Walter E. Fernald

Supt., MA School for the Feeble-Minded

"Feeble-mindedness is the mother of crime, pauperism and degeneracy. It is certain that the feebleminded and their progeny constitute one of the great social and economic burdens of modern times."

(1919) National Committee for Mental Hygeine Vol.3, p.180
Dr. William F. Gleason

Dr. William F. Gleason

Chairman, Providence School Committee

"For it is a matter of fact that the removal or isolation of these helpless subjects in an institution ... returns one or more self-supporting persons, bread-winners, to the general public. "

(1907) Report ... On a State School for Feeble-Minded Children

"You don't need teachers; what you need is an asphyxiation chamber."

DeSilva, B.(1974, May 19) The Providence Journal, p.A1


Dr. Joseph H. Ladd

Dr. Joseph H. Ladd

Superintendent, 1908-1956

"Modern society circumvents nature's law of the survival of the fittest, but we mustn't go too far in allowing not only the survival but also the multiplication of the unfit."

Greenberg, S. (1948, Feb 29) Dr. Ladd. The Providence Journal, p.19
Dr. Amadeo Mastrobuono

Dr. Amadeo Mastrobuono

Asst. Superintendent, 1908-1956

"Patient is a little dwarf who works about at the Colony and cares for the low grades .... He has had no serious illness in the past year. However, he has grown old."

(1947, June), Medical Notes for R.D.
Mary F. McTernan

Mary F. Mcternan

Social Worker, 1923-1934

"Society must proect itself against nameless children and our School gave the protection."

Jason Carpenter (2014), Exeter Girls, vol.1, p.139
Suzanna J. Murphy

Suzanna J. Murphy

Head Matron, 1913-1963

"I considered it necessary for [the patient] to get another whipping, and if ever she needed a whipping, she needed one last night."

Jason Carpenter (Unpublished), Exeter Girls, vol.2
Dr. Sidney S. Goldstein

Dr. Sidney Goldstein

Asst. Superintendent, 1942-1945

"Do you see where the patients have kicked out the plaster here? It's no wonder. I'd like to kick it myself."

Terry Goldstein & Beryl Segal (Nov, 1973), RI Jewish Historical Notes
Dr. Joseph Cannon

Dr. Joseph Cannon

Chief Physician, 1948-1950

"The Ladd School is currently a poor operation. There is virtually no leadership -- in the full meaning of that word."

Peter Perl (1978, Feb 5), The Providence Journal

"The Exeter hospital is the home of the eternally doomed...."

Report to The General Assembly (1955)


J. Joseph Garrahy

J. Joseph Garrahy

Governor, 1976-1984

"Oh my God. It's horrible, absolutely horrible."

(1977, November 16), The Providence Journal, p.A1
John G. Smith

Dr. John G. Smith

Superintendent, 1956-1977

"Don't you ever come down here and ask for my resignation, only come down and fire me. I will never resign."

(1978, October 16), The Providence Journal, p.A1
Francis P. Kelley

Francis P. Kelley

Asst. Superintendent, 1961-1963

"We're catching up for 50 years of neglect and that just doesn't happen overnight."

(1974, July 25), The Bridgeport Post, p.6

Miss Frances Linden

Social Worker, 1936-1976

"Mass admissions are harmful both to the individual ... and to the institution and violate human rights."

(1946, June 30), Report to the Dept. of Social Welfare
Dr. Bodhan Masyk

Dr. Bodhan Masyk

Medical Director, 1955-1960

"[The Exeter School hospital] is not a real hospital.... The school's staff of only two physicians is wholly inadequate for an institution the size of Exeter."

(1957, April 19), The Providence Journal, p.6
Dr. Nedo Nora

Dr. Nedo Nora

Medical Director, 1964-1978

Politics and medicine don't mix.

(1977, Oct 5), The Providence Journal, p.A20

"Institutions like Ladd should no
longer exist."

Perl, P. (1979, Feb 5) The Providence Journal


George Gunther, Jr.

Mr. George Gunther, Jr.

Executive Director, 1978-1994

"It's a disgrace for people to live here."

(1977, Oct 9) The Providence Journal, p.C1

Mr. James Healey

Executive Director, RIARC

"I can't say it's illegal incerceration, but in our opinion it's incarceration."

(1977, Oct 23), The Providence Journal, p.A1
Edward D. DiPrete

Edward D. DiPrete

Governor, 1985-1991

"It is with great pride that I announce my decision to close the Dr. Ladd Center."

Fitzpatrick, Colleen (1986, July 31), The Providence Journal Bulletin, p.A3
Dr. Rober L. Carl, Jr.

Dr. Robert L. Carl, Jr.

Director, Dept. of Developmental Disabilties

"The beast is dead."

Miller, G. Wayne (1994, Mar 26) The Providence Journal Bulletin, p.1