Haven School Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) Collection

Parent-Teacher Associations have existed since the late 1890s. These groups advocate for improvements in the lives of children as demonstrated by the instrumental role they played in the adoption of school lunches, the institution of child labor laws, and the promotion of transportation safety, sex education, and tobacco and alcohol education.

Through the years, Portsmouth schools adopted their own PTAs, including Haven School in the South End which opened in 1846. The Haven School PTA was a volunteer organization and many parents were actively involved throughout the years. A robust Procedure Handbook was compiled each year and contained information about the National Parent-Teacher Association, a listing of the by-laws, newspaper clippings featuring Haven School and its students, and flyers and programs from school events including minstrel shows and "Lawn Fetes," among other documents and ephemera. The school closed in 1969 when Little Harbor School was built as a replacement. The last Haven School PTA president was Jean Pecunies (1927-2013).

It must be noted that several of the volumes in the Haven School Parent-Teacher Association Collection contain photographs that depict performers in blackface and other racist costumes. These performers took part in Haven School's annual minstrel shows. Minstrel shows or minstrelsy was a form of racist musical theater that developed in the early 1830s, decades before the Civil War. These shows were primarily performed by white people donning blackface makeup whose comedic acts relied on stereotypical depictions of Black people. These depictions contributed to the codification of blackness as caricature. While minstrel shows saw a decline on the professional scene around 1910, amateur performances, including school shows, remained popular until the 1960s.

This collection was donated to the Portsmouth Public Library by Margaret Pecunies Olson in the summer of 2019. It is permanently housed in the Portsmouth Public Library Special Collections. Materials will continue to be digitized as time and staffing allow.

In 1982, a reunion was organized to bring together former residents of the Puddle Dock neighborhood, also known as the Haven School neighborhood. Photographs gathered as part of that effort have been digitized and are available for viewing on The Haven School Neighborhood Project page.