150 Boise Icons: Marian Pritchett School

April 29, 2013 

The first officers of the Salvation Army arrived in Boise, population 3,500, in 1887.

In 1921, the organization opened The Salvation Army Rescue Home, a small "lying-in," or maternity hospital, for unwed mothers.

Boise's home at 1617 N. 24th St. was part of a larger network. Minister William Booth founded The Salvation Army in London's East End in 1865. Soon after, the organization opened its first homes for poor women, many of whom were pregnant. The first American rescue home opened in Brooklyn in 1887. Ten rescue homes opened in the West in the next few decades, including Boise's.

Originally, the girls and young women who stayed at the home didn't have access to educational programs other than cooking, housekeeping, sewing and typing. But in 1963, the Idaho Legislature passed a bill authorizing pay for one full-time and one part-time teacher to lead academic classes. In 1964, the Boise School District opened an accredited school at Booth for pregnant and parenting teens, offering grades 7 through 12, as it does today.

The availability of birth control and the decreasing stigma of unmarried pregnancies started to make homes and hospitals like Booth obsolete in the 1970s. Most closed or, like Boise's, evolved. The Booth Home stopped offering medical services. The rooms once devoted to labor and maternity became classrooms.

In 2002, the complex became the Marian Pritchett School at The Salvation Army Booth Memorial Campus, named in honor of Pritchett, who taught social studies there for three decades. Pritchett died the same year.

The Boise School District, The Salvation Army and donations from the community support the school today. It accepts pregnant and parenting teens from any school district. They study a regular curriculum and earn a high school diploma from the Boise School District.

Staffers try to create the closest thing to a normal high school experience for pregnant students, said Head Teacher Deborah Hedden-Nicely. Students take the SATs. They job shadow in the community. They attend the University of Idaho Women in Science conference and other career conferences.

The Salvation Army contracts with Giraffe Laugh to provide on-site day care for students. The Salvation Army also provides a full-time, master's level social worker for the school. Forty-five young women and girls are in the program this year.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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