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Child Care in Black and White

Child Care in Black and White: Working Parents and the History of Orphanages

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Child Care in Black and White
    Book Description:

    This innovative study examines the development of institutional child care from 1878 to 1929, based on a comparison of two sister orphanages in Pittsburgh: the all-white United Presbyterian Orphan's Home and the all-black Home for Colored Children. Focusing on the agency of poor families who used these institutions in times of family crisis to meet their child care needs, Jessie B. Ramey explores the cooperation and conflict among working parents, children, orphanage managers, progressive reformers, staff members, and the broader community. Drawing on quantitative analysis of the records of more than 1,500 children living at the two orphanages, as well as census data, city logs, and contemporary social science surveys, this study investigates the intertwined hierarchies of gender, race, and class at the foundation of orphanage care. Raising new questions about the role of child care in constructing and perpetrating social inequality in the United States, Child Care in Black and White: Working Parents and the History of Orphanages provides insight into the lives of working-class families struggling to balance their wage labor and parenting responsibilities in a modernizing industrial economy.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09442-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Constructing Orphans
    (pp. 1-9)

    The idea for this book began with these words, written by my grandmother about her own mother’s childhood in an orphanage. In thinking about her experience one day, it occurred to me that my great-grandmother was not an orphan at all—her mother had died, but her father was living—and it suddenly seemed strange to me that she and her siblings had been placed in an institution for parentless children. But it turns out that the vast majority of “orphans” in orphanages at the turn of the last century actually had one or even two living parents, often struggling...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Institutionalizing Orphans: The Founding and Managing Women
    (pp. 10-31)

    Nearly every historical account of the founding of the United Presbyterian Orphans Home begins by paying homage to Rev. James Fulton, the young pastor of the Fourth United Presbyterian Church of Allegheny. A dying widow appealed to Fulton to find homes for her five soon-to-be-orphaned children. Moved by their plight, Fulton called together the United Presbyterian women of Pittsburgh and Allegheny on October 9, 1878, launching the United Presbyterian Women’s Association of North America (UPWANA), which immediately undertook the organization of an orphan’s home. When Fulton died in 1896, the managers commissioned a portrait of the minister and hung it...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Raising Orphans: The Child Care Dilemma of Families in Crisis
    (pp. 32-65)

    Born in Ireland in 1836, the ill-fated Isabella Nelson was living in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, with her mother and sister when she met her future husband, James Longmore. The Nelsons had little money, and Isabella and her younger sister, Ellen, both worked as dressmakers to support their mother, Catherine. In 1861, at the age of twenty-five, Isabella married James and almost immediately became pregnant with their first son, who was born the following year. The Longmores had four children—ages seven, four, three, and an infant—when James died in 1869, leaving Isabella to support her family by keeping a store,...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Boarding Orphans: Working Parents’ Use of Orphanages as Child Care
    (pp. 66-101)

    In their fiftieth anniversary report, the United Presbyterian Orphan’s Home proudly reflected on the thousands of children they had helped and pictured them stretching back in time in a long procession next to a line of dedicated orphanage managers. Parents are not only missing from this imagined scene but are literally portrayed as absent from their children’s lives, the “little ones” having “lost the support of their natural protectors.” What’s more, the “protection and care and Christian training” required by children came not from their own families but from the “loving hands and kind hearts” of the managers, acting as...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Fathering Orphans: Gender and Institutional Child Care
    (pp. 102-130)

    In 1880, at the age of twenty-three, James Caldwell and his new bride, twenty-year-old Jessie, set sail from Scotland. James had a career as a police officer but had already made at least one trip to the United States to scout out a new future for himself. During the voyage across the Atlantic, Jessie gave birth to their first child and, after landing in Philadelphia, the new family soon set out on foot to cross the state of Pennsylvania. They stayed with other Scottish families along the three-hundred-mile journey west to Pittsburgh, where James found work as a cemetery caretaker...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Reforming Orphans: Progressive Reformers and Staff in the Development of Child Care Organizations
    (pp. 131-158)

    On the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary, the Home for Colored Children (HCC) recorded this version of its founding story, tracing the genesis of the institution to a state law. Several succeeding versions of this tale cite the role of legislation in prompting the formation of a new institution for African Americans, suggesting that the state acted as a progressive agent, forcing changes in the handling of all dependent children.¹ The Women’s Christian Association (WCA) is even presented here as a passive entity: it “took charge” of Nellie Grant, but only after it “was notified” of the new act, suggesting...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Segregating Orphans: The Home for Colored Children
    (pp. 159-193)

    In 1916 the Pittsburg Dispatch published this account of the founding of the Home for Colored Children, capturing nearly all the details of what would become the institution’s modern origins story: a rainy day, a lost little girl, Reverend Fulton, and Mrs. Julia Blair. While the little girl, Nellie Grant, was not named in official histories until the orphanage’s fiftieth anniversary, she has come in recent years to symbolize the founding and very mission of the home. The HCC’s successor organization, Three Rivers Youth, today presents “Nellie Leadership Awards” each year, recognizing local champions of children’s services. However, accounts of...

  12. CONCLUSION: Contesting Orphans
    (pp. 194-204)

    The story of my great-great grandfather, the widower James Caldwell, sparked my interest in the topic of orphanages. But when this project began, I was under the impression, based on family recollections, that Caldwell had placed his children in a Methodist orphanage. I had already decided to study the Home for Colored Children, as there was such a gap in the historiography on institutions for African American children, and when I discovered its “sister” agency, the United Presbyterian Orphan’s Home, founded by the same minister, the opportunity to do a comparative study seemed irresistible. It wasn’t until I had spent...

  13. APPENDIX A: Data Sets and Statistical Methodology
    (pp. 205-206)
  14. APPENDIX B: Biographical Comparison of HCC and UPOH Founding Managers
    (pp. 207-208)
  15. APPENDIX C: Birthplace of HCC Parents
    (pp. 209-210)
  16. NOTES
    (pp. 211-244)
    (pp. 245-260)
    (pp. 261-262)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 263-272)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 273-283)