By Rachel G. Fuchs

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Additional resources for Abandoned children: foundlings and child welfare in nineteenth-century France

Sample text

William B. Cohen gave his constant encouragement, advice, and direction; I am deeply indebted to him. I am grateful to M. Jeanne Peterson for her questions, for her understanding, and for her critique of an earlier draft. Anne Lee Bain scrutinized the penultimate draft with the sharp eye and pencil of a very skilled editor. Her suggestions were invaluable and she taught me much about writing. Lester Cohen critically read the manuscript and helped me think clearly about some important issues. George Alter, James Diehl, Theresa McBride, George Sussman and Dena Targ have each read the manuscript, or chapters of it, in one of its many draft forms.

Prior to the seventeenth century, children were not central to the family; mortality rates among infants were high, and children who lived past the weaning stage took their place beside adults. Children were not the objects of emotional attention, certainly not among the poor. Part of the lack of early emotional attachment, which also tended to preclude later parent-child bonds, may lie in the shadow of death that hovered over infants of all classes. And the nature of rural poverty also helps account for the lack of succor.

State provisions for abandoned children reflected a change in the whole culture. By the last quarter of the nineteenth century, attitudes changed. While still concerned with the proliferation, immorality, and criminal tendencies of the working classes of the day, social reformers no longer strove to curtail abandonment, but felt that the state, by means of social welfare programs, could do a better job of creating ideal working-class citizens than could biological parents. Doctors, social workers, teachers, juvenile judges and lawyers, and state officials Page xiv became involved in the internal functioning of working-class families.

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