UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

'We educate wayward girls here' : educational policy regarding teen mothers in Vancouver, 1959-2019 Davies, Mallory Quinn


Prior to 1973, unwed and pregnant adolescents in British Columbia had few educational options. The shame of out of wedlock pregnancy, to say nothing of school administrators’ intolerance of students in such a condition, did not permit mothers to continue their public schooling. Courts placed pregnant adolescents under the juvenile offenses’ “incorrigibility” or “unmanageability” at the Willingdon School for Girls, a training facility for rehabilitation of delinquent girls. Some pregnant teens were sent to the United Church Home for Girls, a maternity home in Burnaby. These institutions closed in 1973. In 1982, another approach to the pregnant teen emerged when the Vancouver School Board opened the Tupper Mini School, an alternative program for teen mothers. This program continues to exist under the name Heron’s Nest Education Centre for Young Parents. This thesis uses archival material and the historical method to understand the educational objectives of the various British Columbia educational institutions that dealt with young unwed mothers and how policy reforms affected these objectives between 1959 and 2019. Early institutions focused on what they perceived to be the young mothers’ need for rehabilitation and moral education. The Willingdon School for Girls emphasized instruction in proper social behaviour as a means of rehabilitating them to their acceptable place in society. The United Church Home’s message reinforced the importance of establishing a nuclear, Christian family and traditional gender roles that kept women at home. As these institutions closed the moral concern of pregnancy lingered into the next decade; however, the social stigma began to be associated as a financial concern. As teen pregnancy became increasingly visible, the public became concerned with the demands on the taxpayer involved in supporting teens on social assistance. This concern resulted in the initiation of the Tupper Mini program. This program sought to teach teen mothers the skills needed to support themselves independently upon graduation. Although this program continues to exist as Heron’s Next Education Centre for Young Parents, it is reminiscent of the past because the policy language continues to address young mothers as ‘at-risk’ rather than students who happen to have children.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International