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Originally named Temporary Asylum for Discharged Female Prisoners, the Temporary Asylum for Discharged Female Prisoners came into being as the reality of a dream of its founder, Hannah B. Chickering.  While visiting Philadelphia in early 1860, Miss Chickering was invited by a friend to accompany her on a weekly trip to comfort and console the female prisoners at the State Penitentiary.  Miss Chickering became greatly interested in the work and returned to her home in Dedham, Massachusetts, determined to attempt a similar project in the prison in her own town.  She became a self-appointed visitor, librarian and chaplain to the women of the Dedham Jail. Miss Chickering’s experiences in the Dedham Jail made her see the great need for rehabilitation after discharge from prison, as at that time, no attempt was made to prepare inmates for their return to society.  She was firmly convinced that because of lax conditions in jails, the women, when discharged, often were wiser and more hardened in crime than on their admittance.   Through her efforts and enthusiasm, she secured the support of many for this new and quite revolutionary undertaking, and the Temporary Asylum for Discharged Female Prisoners was incorporated on April 30, 1864. Miss Chickering proceeded to inform herself of what had been accomplished elsewhere in reformatory work and corresponded actively with prison workers both at home and abroad.  A farm was purchased in Dedham (at what was described as an unprecedentedly low price), consisting of a house, a large barn, several good outbuildings, and 25 acres of land.   After months of hard work on the part of Miss Chickering and other interested persons, the Asylum was formally opened as a Christian home on November 15, 1864, its initial inmate being discharged woman prisoners from the Dedham Jail.  The first annual report of the Asylum contained the following description of the opening:“A pleasant company of friends interested in the object were assembled, and words of sympathy, encouragement, and God-speed were spoken.”Thus, officially began a unique experiment and the commencement of the Chickering House’s years of service to the community. ©1969 Chickering Fund

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