front cover of Adoption, Memory, and Cold War Greece
Adoption, Memory, and Cold War Greece
Kid pro quo?
Gonda Van Steen
University of Michigan Press, 2019

This book presents a committed quest to unravel and document the postwar adoption networks that placed more than 3,000 Greek children in the United States, in a movement accelerated by the aftermath of the Greek Civil War and by the new conditions of the global Cold War. Greek-to-American adoptions and, regrettably, also their transactions and transgressions, provided the blueprint for the first large-scale international adoptions, well before these became a mass phenomenon typically associated with Asian children. The story of these Greek postwar and Cold War adoptions, whose procedures ranged from legal to highly irregular, has never been told or analyzed before. Adoption, Memory, and Cold War Greece answers the important questions: How did these adoptions from Greece happen? Was there any money involved? Humanitarian rescue or kid pro quo? Or both? With sympathy and perseverance, Gonda Van Steen has filled a decades-long gap in our understanding, and provided essential information to the hundreds of adoptees and their descendants whose lives are still affected today.


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Charity and Children in Renaissance Florence
The Ospedale degli Innocenti, 1410-1536
Philip Gavitt
University of Michigan Press, 1991

Alongside the architectural splendor and intellectual brilliance of early Renaissance Florence there existed a second world of poverty, misery, social despair, and child abandonment. The Ospedale degli Innocenti (Hospital of the Innocents), designed and built between 1419 and 1445 by the renowned architect Filippo Brunelleschi, united these disparate worlds. Christian charity and compassion, as well as the humanist commitment to social perfection, family values, and love for children, were intertwined with a civic pride in which charity curried God's favor and invoked God's blessings on the city's fortunes.

Based on a close and attentive reading of archival material from the hospital and from the Florentine State Archives, Charity and Children in Renaissance Florence both chronicles the concerns and ambivalence of parents who abandoned children and follows the lives of the hospital's inhabitants from childhood to death. The book also demonstrates how hospital officials deliberately duplicated the structure and values of the Florentine family within the hospital walls. Gavitt's research shows that early modern foundling hospitals were not charnel houses where parents knowingly and impersonally abandoned their unwanted children to certain death. Charity and Children in Renaissance Florence provokes reflection on the contrast between our own views on the care of homeless children and those of the Italian Renaissance.

Winner of the Society for Italian Historical Studies 1988 Award for Best Unpublished Manuscript.


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The Children Of Africa Confront AIDS
From Vulnerability To Possibility
Arvind Singhal
Ohio University Press, 2003
AIDS is now the leading cause of death in Africa, where twenty-eight million people are HIV-positive, and where some twelve million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS. In Zimbabwe, 45 percent of children under the age of five are HIV-positive, and the epidemic has shortened life expectancy by twenty-two years. A fifteen-year-old in Botswana or South Africa has a one-in-two chance of dying of AIDS. AIDS deaths are so widespread in sub-Saharan Africa that small children now play a new game called “Funerals.” The Children of Africa Confront AIDS depicts the reality of how African children deal with the AIDS epidemic, and how the discourse of their vulnerability affects acts of coping and courage. A project of the Institute for the African Child at Ohio University, The Children of Africa Confront AIDS cuts across disciplines and issues to focus on the world’s most marginalized population group, the children of Africa. Editors Arvind Singhal and Stephen Howard join conversations between humanitarian and political activists and academics, asking, “What shall we do?” Such discourse occurs in African contexts ranging from a social science classroom in Botswana to youth groups in Kenya and Ghana. The authors describe HIV/AIDS in its macro contexts of vulnerable children and the continent’s democratization movements and also in its national contexts of civil conflict, rural poverty, youth organizations, and agencies working on the ground. Singhal, Howard, and other contributors draw on compelling personal experience in descriptions of HIV/AIDS interventions for children in difficult circumstances and present thoughtful insights into data gathered from surveys and observations concerning this terrible epidemic.

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A Cold, Hard Prayer
John Smolens
Michigan State University Press, 2023
In 1924, an orphan train passes through the Midwest, and two teenagers, seeking a new life, find nothing but hardship when taken in to live on a farm in Michigan. Mercy, a teenage girl of mixed race, and a boy nicknamed Rope, who lost fingers in a factory accident, become virtual prisoners of Harlan and Estelle Nau, whose children died during the Spanish flu epidemic. After facing abuse, Mercy and Rope flee, making an arduous journey into sparsely populated northern Michigan, where Mercy believes she will find her aunt. After Harlan is found murdered on his farm, police captain Jim Kincaid pursues Mercy and Rope to the cold, barren villages on the Mackinac Straits, but his efforts are complicated by the reemergent Ku Klux Klan, which has formed a coalition with the police deputy Milt Waters and the Dingley brothers, who run a local bootleg operation. Resolute and intrepid, Mercy and Rope develop a bond of mutual trust that helps them navigate a stark American landscape shaped by prejudice, hypocrisy, and fear.

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Crying for Our Elders
African Orphanhood in the Age of HIV and AIDS
Kristen E. Cheney
University of Chicago Press, 2017
The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa has defined the childhoods of an entire generation. Over the past twenty years, international NGOs and charities have devoted immense attention to the millions of African children orphaned by the disease. But in Crying for Our Elders, anthropologist Kristen E. Cheney argues that these humanitarian groups have misread the ‘orphan crisis’. She explains how the global humanitarian focus on orphanhood often elides the social and political circumstances that actually present the greatest adversity to vulnerable children—in effect deepening the crisis and thereby affecting children’s lives as irrevocably as HIV/AIDS itself.
Through ethnographic fieldwork and collaborative research with children in Uganda, Cheney traces how the “best interest” principle that governs children’s’ rights can stigmatize orphans and leave children in the post-antiretroviral era even more vulnerable to exploitation. She details the dramatic effects this has on traditional family support and child protection and stresses child empowerment over pity. Crying for Our Elders advances current discussions on humanitarianism, children’s studies, orphanhood, and kinship. By exploring the unique experience of AIDS orphanhood through the eyes of children, caregivers, and policymakers, Cheney shows that despite the extreme challenges of growing up in the era of HIV/AIDS, the post-ARV generation still holds out hope for the future.

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Finding Mars
Ned Rozell
University of Alaska Press, 2011
Finding Mars is an interwoven tale of science, travel, and adventure, as science writer Ned Rozell accompanies permafrost researcher—and inveterate wanderer—Kenji Yoshikawa on a 750-mile trek by snowmobile through the Alaska wilderness.  Along the way, Rozell learns about Yoshikawa’s fascinating life, from his boyhood in Tokyo to the youthful wanderlust that led him to push a wheeled cart across the Sahara, ski to the South Pole, and take a sailboat into the frozen reaches of the Arctic Ocean, spending a winter frozen in the ice near Barrow. It’s an always on-the-move account of a man driven not just by the desire to fill in the blank spots on a map, but also to learn everything he can about them—and a ringing testament to the power of science, enthusiasm, and individual inspiration.

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Christine Schutt
Northwestern University Press, 2003
Finalist for the 2004 National Book Award

Florida is the portrait of the artist as a young woman, an orphan's story full of loss and wonder, a familiar tale told in original language. Alice Fivey, fatherless at age seven, is left in the care of her relatives at ten when her love-wearied mother loses custody of her and submits to the sanitarium and years of psychiatric care. A namesake daughter locked in the orphan's move-around life, she must hold still while the seamstress pins her into someone not her mother. But they share the same name, so she is her mother, isn't she?

Alice finds consolation in books and she herself is a storyteller who must build a home for herself word by right word. Florida is her story, recalled in brief scenes of spare beauty and strangeness as Alice moves from house to house, ever further from the desolation of her mother's actions, ever closer to the meaning of her experience. In this most elegiac and luminous novel, Schutt gives voice to the feast of memory, the mystery of the mad and missing, and above all, the life-giving power of language.

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The Freethinker’s Daughter
A Novel
Jenny O'Neill
Ohio University Press, 2022

This historical and inspiring coming-of-age novel for young readers explores topics of both historical and contemporary relevance as it follows a harrowing year in the life of its intrepid teenaged narrator.

Lexington, Kentucky, 1833: Calendula “Cal” Farmer, a thirteen-year-old white girl, has been raised by her abolitionist, freethinking mother to reason for herself, consult her inner wisdom, and come to her own conclusions. But when a flash flood devastates her family’s home, Cal is unexpectedly thrust into domestic service in a wealthy family’s mansion. There, she encounters firsthand the physical, intellectual, and emotional brutalities of slavery. Later, a cholera outbreak kills a quarter of the population, including Cal’s mother, and Cal enters an orphanage, where she bravely begins another chapter in her young life.

Cal’s story is sure to captivate readers as she confronts the injustices and uncertainties of racism, class consciousness, epidemic disease, and personal loss with independent thinking, perseverance, and love.


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The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction
Linda Gordon
Harvard University Press, 1999

In 1904, New York nuns brought forty Irish orphans to a remote Arizona mining camp, to be placed with Catholic families. The Catholic families were Mexican, as was the majority of the population. Soon the town's Anglos, furious at this "interracial" transgression, formed a vigilante squad that kidnapped the children and nearly lynched the nuns and the local priest. The Catholic Church sued to get its wards back, but all the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, ruled in favor of the vigilantes.

The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction tells this disturbing and dramatic tale to illuminate the creation of racial boundaries along the Mexican border. Clifton/Morenci, Arizona, was a "wild West" boomtown, where the mines and smelters pulled in thousands of Mexican immigrant workers. Racial walls hardened as the mines became big business and whiteness became a marker of superiority. These already volatile race and class relations produced passions that erupted in the "orphan incident." To the Anglos of Clifton/Morenci, placing a white child with a Mexican family was tantamount to child abuse, and they saw their kidnapping as a rescue.

Women initiated both sides of this confrontation. Mexican women agreed to take in these orphans, both serving their church and asserting a maternal prerogative; Anglo women believed they had to "save" the orphans, and they organized a vigilante squad to do it. In retelling this nearly forgotten piece of American history, Linda Gordon brilliantly recreates and dissects the tangled intersection of family and racial values, in a gripping story that resonates with today's conflicts over the "best interests of the child."


front cover of The Home on Gorham Street and the Voices of Its Children
The Home on Gorham Street and the Voices of Its Children
Howard Goldstein
University of Alabama Press, 1996
The Home on Gorham Street looks back to an earlier era of care for orphaned and dependent children of Eastern European Jewish immigrants. Within this social history and ethnography, the voices of elders once wards of the home in the 1930s and 1940s tell us in sometimes poetic, often comic, usually ironic, and always poignant words what it was really like to grow up in an orphanage. Emerging from this penetrating adventure are principles for the future of effective group care in meeting
the needs of the rapidly growing number of abused, forsaken, and orphaned children.

Goldstein's ethnography demonstrates amply that children who spend years in an institution can go on to lead productive lives under certain conditions. Such conditions may never have been met in any other children's institution. That they did exist one time, however, is cause not only to rejoice but also to understand that recreating these conditions is difficult and possibly impossible.

front cover of The Illustrated Version of Things
The Illustrated Version of Things
Affinity Konar
University of Alabama Press, 2009
The Illustrated Version of Things is the tale of a young woman, raised in foster homes, juvenile halls, and a mental hospital, on a quest to reunite her disparate family and track down her missing mother. There are her grandparents, Holocaust survivors who reckon with history by staying in bed with their cowboy boots on; her father, a nurse who makes vitamins as a hobby; and her half-brother, an overachiever who doesn’t know whether his name is Moses or Miguel, but is certain that his sister isn’t capable of leading a steady life. More than these, she longs for her mother, and she embarks on a search that leads her into the company of pedophiles, vagrant gamblers, fortune tellers, and musical ghosts. Enchantment and conjured memories become her only hope for finding her mother, until she undertakes a last-chance gambit—voluntary incarceration in the jail that might hold her mother—that will either set her free or follow her for life. Konar’s characters, incredible, tragic, and sympathetic, keep us in a state of deranged rapture, making The Illustrated Version of Things an original and irresistible fiction debut.

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Joyful Orphan
Mark Irwin
University of Nevada Press, 2023

Through poems of witness, species and habitat extinction, war, pandemic, technology, history, and race, Mark Irwin’s elegant collection of poetry explores the collision between metropolis and wilderness, and engages with forms of spirit that cannot be bound. With the incursion of electronic communication, our connections with one another have been radically distorted. Irwin’s poems confront what it means to be human, and how conflict, along with the interface between technology and humanity, can cause us to become orphaned in many different ways. But it is our decision to be joyful. 

Excerpt from “Letter”
      Times when we touch hope like the hem of a cloud 
just as when we touch a body or door, or think 
of the dead come back, romancing 
us through the warp of memory, lighting a way
by luring . . .


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Kinship by Design
A History of Adoption in the Modern United States
Ellen Herman
University of Chicago Press, 2008
What constitutes a family? Tracing the dramatic evolution of Americans’ answer to this question over the past century, Kinship by Design provides the fullest account to date of modern adoption’s history.
            Beginning in the early 1900s, when children were still transferred between households by a variety of unregulated private arrangements, Ellen Herman details efforts by the U.S. Children’s Bureau and the Child Welfare League of America to establish adoption standards in law and practice. She goes on to trace Americans’ shifting ideas about matching children with physically or intellectually similar parents, revealing how research in developmental science and technology shaped adoption as it navigated the nature-nurture debate.
            Concluding with an insightful analysis of the revolution that ushered in special needs, transracial, and international adoptions, Kinship by Design ultimately situates the practice as both a different way to make a family and a universal story about love, loss, identity, and belonging. In doing so, this volume provides a new vantage point from which to view twentieth-century America, revealing as much about social welfare, statecraft, and science as it does about childhood, family, and private life.

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Life in a Cambodian Orphanage
A Childhood Journey for New Opportunities
Kathie Carpenter
Rutgers University Press, 2021
What is it like to grow up in an orphanage? What do residents themselves have to say about their experiences? Are there ways that orphanages can be designed to meet children's developmental needs and to provide them with necessities they are unable to receive in their home communities? In this book, detailed observations of children's daily life in a Cambodian orphanage are combined with follow-up interviews of the same children after they have grown and left the orphanage. Their thoughtful reflections show that the quality of care children receive is more important for their well-being than the site in which they receive it. Life in a Cambodian Orphanage situates orphanages within the social and political history of Cambodia, and shows that orphanages need not always be considered bleak sites of deprivation and despair. It suggests best practices for caring for vulnerable children regardless of the setting in which they are living.

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Miss Carrie
A Novel
Judson N. Hout
Parkhurst Brothers, Inc., 2013

“Set in Arkansas during World War II, Hout’s touching story of an orphaned boy's relationship with the inhabitant of a small town's "haunted house” will keep you guessing, right up to the satisfying ending.  Another endearing novel from Judson Hout."

--Cindy Ward, Dallas, Texas


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Mother of Orphans
The True and Curious Story of Irish Alice, a Colored Man's Widow
Dedria Humphries Barker
2Leaf Press, 2018
Mother of Orphans is the compelling true story of Alice, an Irish-American woman who defied rigid social structures to form a family with a black man in Ohio in 1899. Alice and her husband had three children together, but after his death in 1912, Alice mysteriously surrendered her children to an orphanage. One hundred years later, her great-grand daughter, Dedria Humphries Barker, went in search of the reasons behind this mysterious abandonment, hoping in the process to resolve aspects of her own conflicts with American racial segregation and conflict.

This book is the fruit of Barker’s quest. In it, she turns to memoir, biography, historical research, and photographs to unearth the fascinating history of a multiracial community in the Ohio River Valley during the early twentieth century. Barker tells this story from multiple vantage points, frequently switching among points of view to construct a fragmented and comprehensive perspective of the past intercut with glimpses of the present. The result is a haunting, introspective meditation on race and family ties. Part personal journey, part cultural biography, Mother of Orphans examines a little-known piece of this country’s past: interracial families that survived and prevailed despite Jim Crow laws, including those prohibiting mixed-race marriage. In lyrical, evocative prose, this extraordinary book ultimately leaves us hopeful about the world as our children might see it.

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Of Orphans and Warriors
Inventing Chinese American Culture and Identity
Chun, Gloria Heyung
Rutgers University Press, 1999

"We were as American as can be," states Jadin Wong in recalling the days when she used to dance at a San Francisco nightclub during the 1940s. Wong belonged to an all-Chinese chorus line at a time when all East Asians were called "Orientals." In this context, then, what did it mean for Wong, an American-born Chinese, to say that she thought of herself as an "American"? Of Orphans and Warriors explores the social and cultural history of largely urban, American-born Chinese from the 1930s through the 1990s, focusing primarily on those living in California. Chun thus opens a window onto the ways in which these Americans born of Chinese ancestry negotiated their identity over a half century.

Past scholarship has portrayed these individuals as desiring to assimilate into mainstream American culture, but being prevented from doing so by the immigrant parent generation. Taking a new approach, Chun uses memoirs, autobiographies, and fictional writings to unravel complex issues of ethnic identity as both culturally defined and individually negotiated. She concludes that, while indeed many Chinese Americans were caught between the lures of mainstream American culture and their parents' old-world values, this liminal position offered them unprecedented opportunities to carve out new identities for themselves from a position of strength.


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Orphan Trains to Missouri
Michael D. Patrick & Evelyn Goodrich Trickel
University of Missouri Press, 1997

As an "orphan train" crossed the country, it left part of its cargo at each stop, a few children in one small town and a few in another. Even though farmers needed many hands for labor, most of the small farm communities could not or would not take all of the children on the train. As the train moved to its next stop, those children not taken feared no one would ever want them.

Early immigration laws encouraged the poor of Europe to find new hope with new lives in the United States. But sometimes the immigrants exchanged a bad situation in their native country for an even worse one on the streets of New York and other industrial cities. As a result, the streets were filled with crowds of abandoned children that the police called "street arabs." Many New York citizens blamed the street arabs for crime and violence in the city and wanted them placed in orphan homes or prisons.

In 1853 a man by the name of Charles Loring Brace, along with other well-to-do men in New York City, founded the Children's Aid Society. The society planned to give food, lodging, and clothing to homeless children and provide educational and trade opportunities for them. But the number of children needing help was so large that the Children's Aid Society was unable to care for them, and Brace developed a plan to send many of the children to the rural Midwest by train. He was convinced that the children of the streets would find many benefits in rural America. In 1854 he persuaded the board of the society to send the first trainload of orphans west. With this, the orphan trains were born.

Cheap fares, the central location of the state, and numerous small farming towns along the railroad tracks made Missouri the perfect hub for the orphan trains, even though many areas of the state were still largely unsettled. Researchers have estimated that from 150,000 to 400,000 children were sent out on orphan trains, with perhaps as many as 100,000 being placed in Missouri.

Orphan Trains to Missouri documents the history of the children on those Orphan Trains--their struggles, their successes, and their failures. Touching stories of volunteers who oversaw the placement of the orphans as well as stories of the orphans themselves make this a rich record of American and midwestern history.


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The Orphans of Byzantium
Child Welfare in the Christian Empire
Timothy S. Miller
Catholic University of America Press, 2003
In The Orphans of Byzantium, Miller provides a perceptive and original study of the evolution of orphanages in the Byzantine Empire.

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Orphans of the Republic
The Nation’s Legislators in Vichy France
Olivier Wieviorka
Harvard University Press, 2009

On July 10, 1940, by a 570 to 80 margin, the representatives in the French parliament voted full powers to Philippe Pétain, ending the Third Republic and paving the way for the collaborationist Vichy regime. Olivier Wieviorka offers a nuanced portrait of the individuals who determined the fate of France at this critical moment.

Pétain claimed to be saving France from ruin. The day of the vote has been described as a journée des dupes, the legislators so ignorant or fearful that they voted without a thought to the consequences. But Wieviorka shows that most of the deputies made a considered decision to vote for Pétain. He analyzes the factors, such as political culture and regional origins, that motivated the voting on both sides, and traces the men’s fates through the war.

Recreating the tense atmosphere of summer 1940, Wieviorka shows how pressures brought on by defeat could affect even the most hardened republicans. He illuminates the complex moral issues inherent in accommodation and collaboration in a time of crisis.


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Outside Passage
A Memoir of an Alaskan Childhood
Julia Scully
University of Alaska Press, 2010
When Julia Scully was seven years old, her father committed suicide, and she and her sister were sent to an orphanage.  Two years later, emotionally damaged by the isolation and brutality of the orphanage, the girls followed their mother to the near-wilderness of the gold-mining territory north of Nome, Alaska, where she had leased a roadhouse in the tiny settlement of Taylor.  Julia had no idea what to expect when she arrived, but to her surprise, she found a healing power in the stark beauty of the vast tundra.  Later, she reveled in the boisterous, chaotic boomtown atmosphere that prevailed when thousands of American troops descended on Nome at the outbreak of World War II.  

Outside Passage is a lyrical and affecting memoir of those years, simultaneously an emotional account of a young girl’s first steps into adulthood and a unique portrait of a vanished frontier life.

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Santiago's Children
What I Learned about Life at an Orphanage in Chile
By Steve Reifenberg
University of Texas Press, 2008

Runner-up, Bronze Medal, Independent Publishers Book Awards: Memoir/Autobiography Category, 2009

Unclear about his future career path, Steve Reifenberg found himself in the early 1980s working at a small orphanage in a poor neighborhood in Santiago, Chile, where a determined single woman was trying to create a stable home for a dozen or so children who had been abandoned or abused. With little more than good intentions and very limited Spanish, the 23-year-old Reifenberg plunged into the life of the Hogar Domingo Savio, becoming a foster father to kids who stretched his capacities for compassion and understanding in ways he never could have imagined back in the United States.

In this beautifully written memoir, Reifenberg recalls his two years at the Hogar Domingo Savio. His vivid descriptions create indelible portraits of a dozen remarkable kids—mature-beyond-her-years Verónica; sullen, unresponsive Marcelo; and irrepressible toddler Andrés, among them. As Reifenberg learns more about the children's circumstances, he begins to see the bigger picture of life in Chile at a crucial moment in its history.

The early 1980s were a time of economic crisis and political uprising against the brutal military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Reifenberg skillfully interweaves the story of the orphanage with the broader national and international forces that dramatically impact the lives of the kids. By the end of Santiago's Children, Reifenberg has told an engrossing story not only of his own coming-of-age, but also of the courage and resilience of the poorest and most vulnerable residents of Latin America.


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The Stable Boy
The First Witness Tells His Story
Shirley A. Taylor
Parkhurst Brothers, Inc., 2012
In writing a nativity story from the point of view of a boy who lives in the stable, Shirley Taylor has given us a vivid account of Christ’s birth and a motivating experience to readers and hearers, alike.  Likely to become an ‘instant classic’ of Christian literature, this simple story will inspire thousands of retellings by pastors, Christian educators, parents and grandparents.

​"Shirley Taylor's story gives readers and hearers insight into the town of Bethlehem at the time of the birth of Christ. Wendell Hall's illustrations help us imagine that scene wonderfully. The young homeless boy touches our hearts and imaginations. Not just for children, this is a read aloud book for all ages." - Lauretta Phillips, Storyteller, Author, Radio & TV Host

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Understood Betsy
Dorothy Canfield Fisher
Brandeis University Press, 1999
Thanks to her loving but over-protective guardian aunts, Betsy is a fearful, self-absorbed, nine-year-old hypochondriac. One of the most terrible items on her long list of fears is the horrid cousins her aunts never mention without shuddering. When her aunts are suddenly no longer able to care for her, Betsy is, incredibly, sent to live with those very relatives. Arriving in Vermont alone and full of trepidation, Betsy is immediately invited by her Uncle Henry to drive the carriage. Steering the fearful horses is just the beginning of her adventures in New England -- and independence. By the novel's end, Betsy has become very fond of the rough but affectionate relatives who eat in the kitchen and expect her to wash her own dishes. When she gets a letter from the aunts inviting her to come home, Betsy must make a difficult choice. Understood Betsy has been published in numerous editions worldwide since its 1917 debut, and continues to charm readers with its delightful and surprisingly liberated characters.

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The Unwanted Child
The Fate of Foundlings, Orphans, and Juvenile Criminals in Early Modern Germany
Joel F. Harrington
University of Chicago Press, 2009

The baby abandoned on the doorstep is a phenomenon that has virtually disappeared from our experience, but in the early modern world, unwanted children were a very real problem for parents, government officials, and society. The Unwanted Child skillfully recreates sixteenth-century Nuremberg to explore what befell abandoned, neglected, abused, or delinquent children in this critical period.

Joel F. Harrington tackles this question by focusing on the stories of five individuals. In vivid and poignant detail, he recounts the experiences of an unmarried mother-to-be, a roaming mercenary who drifts in and out of his children’s lives, a civic leader handling the government’s response to problems arising from unwanted children, a homeless teenager turned prolific thief, and orphaned twins who enter state care at the age of nine. Braiding together these compelling portraits, Harrington uncovers and analyzes the key elements that link them, including the impact of war and the vital importance of informal networks among women. From the harrowing to the inspiring, The Unwanted Child paints a gripping picture of life on the streets five centuries ago.


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Widows and Orphans First
The Family Economy and Social Welfare Policy, 1880-1939
S. J. Kleinberg
University of Illinois Press, 2005

The experiences of widows and their children during the Progressive Era and the New Deal depended on differences in local economies and values. How did these widely varied experiences impact the origins of the welfare state? 

S. J. Kleinberg delves into the question by comparing widows' lives in three industrial cities with differing economic, ethnic, and racial bases. Government in Fall River, Massachusetts, saw employment as a solution to widows' poverty and as a result drastically limited public charity. In Pittsburgh, widows received sympathetic treatment. Few jobs existed for them or their children; indeed, the jobs for men were concentrated in "widowmaking" industries like steel and railroading. With a large African American population and a diverse economy that relied on inexpensive child and female labor, Baltimore limited funds for public services. African Americans adapted by establishing their own charitable institutions. 

A fascinating comparative study, Widows and Orphans First offers a one-of-a-kind look at social welfare policy for widows and the role of children in society during a pivotal time in American history.


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