One Woman's Story About Life With The Nuns Of The Good Shepherd

Mar 18, 2017

Tilth, a non-profit that oversees community gardens all over Seattle, operates out of a Suite 100 in a historical landmark: The Good Shepherd Center. This enormous building spans the length of a city block and is surrounded by several acres of gardens, a playground and large expanses of green lawns.

From 1907 to 1971, the building was the “Home of The Good Shepherd."  Nuns took in girls and young women who, during that time, might have been considered "troubled" for staying out too late or drinking underage. Some parents sent away their daughters for socializing with people they did not like. The nuns were tasked with making these young women more "responsible" and "moral." 

Jackie Kalani lived at the Home of The Good Shepherd from 1949 to 1952. She spoke to Toby Harris for an oral history project funded by the King County Office of Cultural Resources in 1999.  

Kalani said that once you got to the home, you were there to stay until told otherwise; the outside world did not exist anymore. Kalani remembers that there were no clocks inside, so the young women never really knew what time of day it was. 

Kalani reflected on her experience there with both positive and negative feelings. She now lives in Hawaii. Years after her time at the Home Of The Good Shepherd, Kalani went back to to visit. By this time, she was married and had a daughter. The nuns had a gift for her: A dress for her daughter. It was handmade by the young women who were currently biding their time inside that large building, waiting for that unforeseen moment of their departure.