A report card is not destiny

In going through records from the Manhattan Trade School for Girls for his “permanent record” project, Paul Lukas discovered the saddest story, he writes in Slate. Doris Abravaya’s report card includes comments by school staffers:

Doris’s mother is insane and in Mental State Hospital. Father is paralyzed and crippled and a drunkard. Three children [including Doris] live in [a foster home]. … Doris has low mentality and is very timid and unstable. She constantly fears becoming like her mother. … Doris cannot work in a factory or workroom because her constitution cannot stand it. She had a nervous breakdown after her two weeks at [a previous job].

Doris finished her schooling in 1933 in the depths of the Depression. What happened to her? Lukas worried about her fate — until he met her two daughters.

She worked, married, raised her children, went back to work and retired to Florida with her husband. Her daughters remember her as an outgoing PTA leader.

About Joanne


  1. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Maybe a report card isn’t destiny.

    Maybe it’s a part of destiny.

    Or maybe we just aren’t smart enough to divine destiny from a report card.

  2. Mark Roulo says:

    Abravaya’s other documents in the collection also include:

    A comment next to one class reading: “Honor Roll”

    “will make good; very neat worker. conduct good.”
    “Intelligent, steady worker”

    MENTAL ATTITUDE: Responsive
    TRADE: Average, neat worker
    ACCURACY AND SPEED: very slow worker, needs urging
    EFFORT: aims to please
    RELIABILITY: trustworthy
    INITIATIVE: needs extra attention, immature
    COOPERATION: helpful
    GENERAL ATTITUDE: courteous, pleasant disposition, Timid
    HEALTH: not very strong

    No, a report card is not destiny. But this girl’s report cards contained a fair number of positive comments, too.

  3. Jay in VA says:

    Wow- that was fascinating! Thanks for posting that, Joanne. The best story I have read in a while.