Local History and College Archives

This guide contains descriptions and links of Freel Library's special collections, including college archives and local history

The Normal School Years

The North Adams Normal School

The Early Years


Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts was founded as the State Normal School at North Adams by an act of the Massachusetts legislature in 1894. Normal schools were created specifically to train future teachers for the growing population of children across the United States. The first students, twenty-nine women and three men*, arrived in February 1897. From 1903 until after the school became a teachers college in 1932, enrollment was exclusively female. Success in the two-year program did not result in a bachelor’s degree and graduates were expected to teach below the high school level, often in rural locations.  High school teachers were required to have a bachelor’s degree.  As more women entered the teaching profession, normal schools became four-year institutions and were called teachers colleges.

For more information on the history of normal schools in the United States, check out the following resources in the Freel Library collection:

Albert Gardner Boyden and the Bridgewater State Normal School: a memorial volume. Boyden, Arthur C., 1919.  LD571 B573 B6

The American State Normal School: an instrument of great good. Ogren, Christine A. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. LB1811 O47  (copy is also available online)

A Century of Public Teacher Education: the story of the state teachers colleges as they evolved from the normal schools. Harper, Charles A. American Association of Teachers Colleges, 1939. LB1715 H3

Contributions of the Oswego Normal School to Education Progress in the United States. Hollis, Andrew Phillip. D.C. Heath, 1898.  LB1921 O5 H6

Remembering Massachusetts State Normal Schools: pioneers in teacher education. Breitborde, Mary Lou and Kolodny Kelly, eidtors.  Institute for Massachusetts Studies, Westfield State University, 2014. Includes chapters on each of the Massachusetts normal schools which eventually became state college. The chapter on the North Adams Normal School (now MCLA) was written by Drs. Ellen Barber and Susan Edgerton, MCLA faculty.  LD3234 M24 A3

Rise and Fall of the People’s Colleges: the Westfield Normal School, 1839-1914. Brown, Robert T. Institute for Massachusetts Studies, 1988. LB1888 W52 B76

Journal articles on normal schools can be found in our online databases ERIC (in EBSCOhost) and JSTOR.