Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


October 4, 2012

Dalton column on 1932: When Andover almost became place for 'feeble-minded'


There were several farms on the land. Most townspeople and the Andover Townsman were opposed to the school because they didn’t want Andover to be known as the place where the “feeble-minded” were kept, nor did the town want to see so much farmland disappear.

Although the state sent representatives to the town to garner support, they gained no ground. The matter faded away as the Depression deepened and the state ran out of money.

No one uses “feeble-minded” anymore, and I know it’s offensive. I use kinder words when I can. However, when words are contextually important, as “feeble-minded” was in the above story, I use them. I once used the word “squaw” in a column, taking it from an old history, and was chastised by a woman from Idaho. She said that word insults Native Americans. I researched the word, and she was partly right: some people think it’s insulting and some don’t. As a matter of good manners I try not to needlessly offend, so I won’t use the word again unless it’s contextually important.

Bill Dalton writes a weekly column for the Andover Townsman. His email address is

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