|I'd read this book -- and was fascinated by how the Orphan Trains came to pass...|
|The EXCELLENT speaker was Amanda Miller the Curator of the Geneseo Historical Society.|
|The room was packed. They often get 300 people...|
|Amanda had a lot of historical information -- and many of the orphans ended up in our area.|
It worked like this -- posters would be put up in the towns where the trains were scheduled to stop. People would come to the station on the appointed day, and the children would be herded off the train, and lined up for inspection. The biggest boys were taken first -- and they became free farm labor. The adorable blonde babies were taken second. And the red headed little girls were always the last to go.
As it turns out, the Midwest hated the Irish just as much as the city folk did. The newest immigrants to America at the time -- the Irish children were discriminated against, and were chosen last, or not chosen at all -- then sent back to the city.
IF the Midwestern family sent their Irish orphans to school, the other children were merciless in their degrading treatment, and nobody thought much of it at the time. Coming on the Orphan Train was something a child was very ashamed of -- and when they grew up -- they never spoke of it. So their families never knew about their bleak beginnings.
The Children's Aid Society had very little ability to check on the children after the families took them home. Some of the children certainly did find a better life, and they grew up in loving homes, cherished by their new families. But others were abused and became little more than slaves. One farmer was allowed to take three boys before anybody figured out he beat them and worked them to death.
As each child got on the train, he/she was given a new outfit to wear, and a pair of shoes. In many cases, this was the first time the child wore shoes...
|This woman is holding the dress her Grandmother wore in 1923, when she came to Clinton, Iowa on the Orphan Train...|
|My selfie -- me and Amanda. She was SO INTERESTING -- and is writing a book about Orphan Trains.|
|Everybody wanted a picture of that little dress...|
It was shocking to think about the seemingly insurmountable problems of society at the time. Thousands of homeless children living in the streets...because of no effective birth control, parents dying young because of epidemics and no medical treatment.
The children had no hope for a better life...no way out. I think -- THANK GOD for the Orphan Trains -- but then, I think -- shame on those foster families for discriminating against the Irish children...
But I like to focus on the positive side of things...and isn't it wonderful that we have solved most of those problems. Via effective birth control, improved living conditions, a better understanding of how disease was spread. Thanks to science, common sense and simply a desire to make things better -- we live in a very different world today.
Right? Then, I wonder if today's immigrants are still struggling with the same hatred, fear and prejudice....
So, Amanda Miller -- job well done. You made me think...