Abandoned: Foundlings in Nineteenth-Century New York City by Julie Miller

By Julie Miller

Two fascinating goods:
The author's article in New York Archives
A letter relating to foundlings within the Riverdale Press

In the 19th century, foundlings—children deserted by way of their desperately bad, usually single moms, often presently after birth—were typical in ecu society. there have been asylums in each significant urban to accommodate deserted infants, and writers made them the heroes in their fiction, such a lot particularly Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist. In American towns ahead of the Civil battle the location was once varied, with foundlings relegated to the poorhouse rather than associations designed particularly for his or her care. by means of the eve of the Civil warfare, long island urban specifically had a virus of foundlings on its fingers end result of the speedy and sometimes interlinked phenomena of city improvement, inhabitants development, immigration, and mass poverty. in simple terms then did the city's leaders start to fear in regards to the welfare and way forward for its deserted children.

In Abandoned, Julie Miller bargains a desirable, problematic, and sometimes heartbreaking historical past of a as soon as devastating, now forgotten social challenge that wracked America's greatest city, manhattan urban. jam-packed with anecdotes and private tales, Miller strains the shift in attitudes towards foundlings from lack of understanding, apathy, and occasionally pity for the kids and their moms to that of popularity of the matter as an indication of city ethical decline and wanting systematic intervention. assistance got here from public officers and non secular reformers who developed 4 associations: the Nursery and kid's Hospital's foundling asylum, the recent York child Asylum, the hot York Foundling Asylum, and the general public toddler medical institution, positioned on Randall's Island within the East River.

Ultimately, the foundling asylums have been not able to noticeably increase children’s lives, and by way of the early 20th century, 3 out of the 4 foundling asylums had closed, as adoption took where of abandonment and foster care took where of associations. at the present time the observe foundling has been mostly forgotten. thankfully, Abandoned rescues its background from obscurity.

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Extra resources for Abandoned: Foundlings in Nineteenth-Century New York City

Sample text

And I never saw a greater variety, or more striking inequalities, in the streets of Paris or London. Some had every sign of grief, sorrow, and despair; others had joy and gayety in their faces. Some were sinking in the arms of death; others looked as if they might live to fourscore. Some were as ugly and others as beautiful, as children or adults ever are; these were stupid; those sensible. 42 Adams’s musings were probably colored less by his pity for the plight of French foundlings than by an issue that concerned him as the United States was embarking on its republican experiment.

When the almshouse received black foundlings, they were placed with black nurses when they were available. The facts here appear to show that they believed the mulatto woman’s story and accepted John Luke as white. The infant John Luke remained with his nurse for at least fifteen months, and there is no record that he died, as there is in so many other cases. If the “mulatto woman” was, in fact, John Luke’s mother, and if she succeeded in passing him off as white in infancy, her ruse did not sur- “Children of Accident and Mystery” | 37 vive into his adulthood.

85 This successful outcome may have influenced the tactics of another abandoner. On the same day as the adoption was reported, another baby dressed in blue silk was abandoned, this time in a department store. ”86 Of course, creating this impression may have been a deliberate tactic, as had been suggested by some women who went to visit the Blue Silk Baby at Bellevue. According to the Herald, opinions were divided by gender. While the Bellevue doctors believed that the baby probably had been abandoned accidentally by “some agitated mother” rushing to catch a train, the women visitors granted the mother greater guile.

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