In July, the Geneva History Center will host an exhibition titled Who Was Sadie Cooksey?. This is a traveling photo exhibition developed by Maine photographer, Maggie Foskett. With the genesis in 1979 when Ms Foskett took pictures of the cemetery at Geneva Training School, the exhibition focuses on a single individual whose tombstone caught the photographer’s eye; Sadie Cooksey 1904-1924.

The exhibition starts July 23, 2011 and will also host several programs. One is an author discussion by Dr Michael Rembis about his book, Defining Defiance: Sex, Science and Delinquent Girls, 1890 – 1960. Dr Rembis had exclusive access to Geneva State Training School information and thousands of case files from those years. His book “analyses how reformers in the last 19th Century and early 20th Century perceived delinquent girls and their often troubled lives”. You can find more information on his book at

Another program, “Memories from the Girls School”, will include former staff talking about their experiences at the institution. The family of Bob Waters, former Assistant Superintendent 1960-1977, will also talk about living on the grounds.

Jessica McTague, the Curator of Collections and Exhibitions, asked permission to mention this website in some of the programs and possibly the exhibition. In an email, Ms McTague writes, “I think the website is a sincere reflection of the experiences of incarcerated juveniles. It is very brave for these women to share their stories. Our goal with the exhibition is to expose the community to the history behind the institution as well as the injustices and stigmas that these young girls faced especially in the early years of its operation. Since the cemetery is really the only physical remaining presence of the school in Geneva, I think that it is a history that needs to be retold not only so we may reflect upon the past but also to reflect upon present and future social practices.”

Over the next several days, I’ll be publishing some interesting photos kindly provided by Jessica and the Geneva History Center. Photos include a photo from the exhibition, an aerial shot of the grounds c. 1970 and the interior of a typical room. A couple women have told me they’d like to publish their stories on the site but I haven’t yet received them. With the upcoming attention on the institution, now is a good time to send to me so they can get the attention and validation they deserve.

I so wish that I could attend this exhibition. If anyone is able to go, please share your thoughts and the experience with all of us.