TITLE: Abandoned: Foundlings in Nineteenth Century New York City
SPEAKER: Julie Miller
EVENT DATE: 2009/12/09
RUNNING TIME: 62 minutes
In the 19th century, foundlings -- children abandoned by their desperately poor, typically unmarried mothers, usually shortly after birth -- were commonplace in European society. There were asylums in every major city to house abandoned babies, and writers made them the heroes of their fiction, most notably Charles Dickens in "Oliver Twist." In American cities before the Civil War the situation was different, with foundlings relegated to the poorhouse instead of institutions designed specifically for their care. By the eve of the Civil War, New York City in particular had an epidemic of foundlings on its hands due to the rapid and often interlinked phenomena of urban development, population growth, immigration and mass poverty. Only then did the city's leaders begin to worry about the welfare and future of its abandoned children. In her book, Julie Miller offers a fascinating, frustrating and often heartbreaking history of a once devastating, now forgotten social problem that wracked America's biggest metropolis, New York City.
Speaker Biography: Julie Miller is the early-American specialist in the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress.
SERIES: Books & Beyond