Saturday Evening Girls

A Social and Business Experiment in the Making of Pottery

Paul Revere Pottery Logo

Paul Revere Pottery Logo

At the turn of the 20th century, progressive ideals flourished across the US. Day schools and various organizations were instituted to provide opportunities to the less economically well endowed. One such experiment was the the Paul Revere Pottery, which enabled young women to develop craft and business skills. Today, the charming painted and glazed pieces of the Saturday Evening Girls command prices that only the well heeled can afford. Quite a tribute to the ideals of the activists who designed the program and the girls who devoted themselves to its accomplishment. Ed.

The Paul Revere Pottery quite naturally takes its name from the fact that it is under the shadow of the old North Church where it is said the signal lanterns were hung.

According to its little circular the pottery aims to be a happy, healthful, wage-earning occupation and plans to give girls whose parents are not well off an opportunity to earn the small sum necessary for their school expenses.

The plant at present occupies the first floor and basement of The Library Club House and draws its workers from groups of girls connected with the House. These groups are from the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grades of the Hancock grammar school and from various high schools. The eldest group of seventy members is composed of working girls, largely stenographers and book-keepers.

The work of the House is along civic and social lines. This rather cloudy summary may be made clear by a somewhat detailed account of its component parts. Suppose we call these parts the groups, and start with the individuals forming these groups: the residents of the neighborhood we seek to better.

Saturday Evening Girls Vase

Saturday Evening Girls Vase with Mums

The future of the House depends on these individuals. If they need the civic and social work the House aims to do, they need it badly enough to follow willingly a course of study outlined, which it is hoped will make them effective workers.

This study is given through a series of talks beginning with the youngest children in the fourth grade, as follows:

Fourth Grade: Simple folk tales.
Fifth Grade: Greek myths and Old Testament stories.
Sixth Grade: Favorite tales of all kinds.
Seventh Grade: American history stories.
Eighth Grade: Iliad, Odyssey, and King Arthur stories.
High School, first year: Same as Eighth Grade.
High School, second year: English literature stories.
High School, third year: Ideal Commonwealths, Real Republics, Social Reforms, Followers of Truth.
Working Girls, first year: Common occupations, trades and their bearing on life.
Working Girls, second year: Fine art of living as we may practice it.
Working Girls, third year: Houses in Ward 6 for Social Betterment. City conditions, Educational opportunities.

There are thirty stories, talks, or lectures in each group. The stories are told for the most part by volunteers who have had experience in teaching and who seek to point out qualities of truth, courtesy, and generosity. The lectures are given by people competent to speak on the subjects assigned. The one list quoted in detail will serve to illustrate the generous service freely given in answer to requests.

Saturday Evening Girls Plate and Bowl with Geese

Saturday Evening Girls Bowl and Plate

Group I. Ward 6 Neighborhood Houses.
Medical Mission. Miss Woodworth.
North End Union. Mr. Hubbard
Civic Service House. Mr. Bloomfield.
Library Club House. Miss Davis, Miss Guerrier.

Group II. City Institutions.
*Affairs Aldermen attend to. Alderman Cotton.
*Duties of Common Council. Councilman Crocker.
Fire Department. Commissioner Parker.
Bath Department. Chairman McCabe.
Street Department. Superintendent Emerson.
Health. Mr. Jordan.
Printing. Superintendent Smyth.
Children’s Institutions. Miss O’Reilly.
Charitable Institutions. Secretary Pettee.
Juvenile Court. Judge Baker.
Public Parkways. Mr. Shurtleff.
Library Department. Mr. Wadlin.
Public Buildings. Mr. Sturgis.
*Before the new charter went into effect.

Group III. Educational Movements.
Boston 1915. Mister Edwards.
Women’s educational and Industrial Union. Miss Gilman.
City Club. Mr. Bottomly.

The music study is also graded. Six glee clubs meet each week and not only learn to sing pure, beautiful songs, but gain an appreciation for good music, which develops a certain refinement requisite for well rounded character; unless the Club House helps to accomplish for the individuals of its groups well rounded characters, how can these groups give pure service to the community?

Classes in dancing give the children merry games to teach their friends at home or in the playgrounds; the older girls happy recreation, straightening bent shoulders and inducing upright carriage.

Stories and glee clubs have led to concerts and plays, given in the North Bennett School Hall for residents of the district. The season this year is as follows:

December 17, Concert.
January 14, Three Fairy Tale Plays.
January 28, Three Moral Plays.
February 11, Concert.
February 26, Three Historical Plays.
March 18, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
April 15, Concert.
April 29, As You Like It.

Saturday Evening Girls Breakfast Set

Child's Breakfast Set with Geese (SEG)

The social good to be gained is apparent, but what of the civic help, beyond making of the girls good citizens? All through the years a sense of responsibility is being developed and with the older group the fine opportunity for service which is ours is being presented.

The Club House stands for democracy that ensures and progresses through the cheerful fulfilment by individuals of duties assigned them and its older members know that only in proportion as they give service to the community do they gain good for themselves; by service is meant gentle insistence on right motives, right speaking, and right acting; intelligent effort to effect better street and housing conditions; loving help in the homes of those new to our shores who do not understand American manners and customs.
The Club House creed is that those who have benefited by its opportunities only really know that they have benefited, when they make what they have gained of use to some one else. There is a brotherhood in an Italian city whose members are bound to answer the call of a bell which means that someone needs help. Whether at night or in daytime, they must dress and go wherever they are sent. The Club House calls for one hour a week of service from each of its members. In whatever direction its House Committee sees fit. The older Group has come to feel that a plan of social work not built on the ideal of service from those who receive, is not fulfilling its opportunities; and though this means much work on the part of its original members, these members stand ready to give that work cheerfully and intelligently.

Paul Revere Pottery Address

Paul Revere Pottery Address with Logo

The pottery as an important social experiment now requires an hour a week from some sixty club members.

Twelve regular workers carry on the entire process of manufacture. The watchwords of the Pottery are good work, pleasant conditions, and fair pay. Every piece speaks of loving individual touch, and from the mixing of the clay to the drawing of a kiln, operations are performed with honest desire to do the best, gain the best, and, as a consequence, give the best.

Even now several girls with musical ability have the opportunity, by part time work in the pottery, to earn sufficient money and save sufficient time to enable them to continue their studies. Working a few hours in Saturday, girls still at day school may earn perhaps just the little needed to permit them to continue at school a year or so longer.

Bowls are the largest product. The demand in the world of dishes seemed to be largely for bowls, which are difficult to obtain of good shape and pleasing design. All this part of the work is in charge of a competent designer and all Paul Revere Pottery shapes are original, or copied from some choice piece which it is well to duplicate.

Bread-and-milk bowls with the child’s name have proved popular, and the salad, fruit and nut bowls, as well as tiles, plates, pitchers, cups and saucers, have traveled from Massachusetts to California.

The glaze is dull, soft in color and texture; the designs outlined in black and filled with flat tones harmonizing with the background of the piece.

The bowl shop where the pottery may be seen and purchased is at 18 Hull Street, Boston and the ware may be found in the salesrooms of arts and crafts societies throughout the country.

Source: "A Social and Business Experiment in the Making of Pottery." Handicraft National League of Handicraft Societies, (December 1911): 411-416.

Additional resources

An interactive exhibit is available on Sara Galner and the Saturday Evening Girls at the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. Click on the red link that says "Interactive Exhibition Preview".

See our copy of a brochure from the company: Saturday Evening Girls Pottery


Art and Reform: Sara Galner, the Saturday Evening Girls, and the Paul Revere Pottery
The Saturday Evening Girls: Paul Revere Pottery

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