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Alone in the World: Orphans and Orphanages in America

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Orphanages and other homes for children have long fueled the imaginations and fantasies of young people. In the first book of its kind, award-winning nonfiction author Catherine Reef uncovers the true history of orphanages, revealing what it was like to eat, sleep, study, and play in such institutions, why children were sent to live there in the first place (not always bec Orphanages and other homes for children have long fueled the imaginations and fantasies of young people. In the first book of its kind, award-winning nonfiction author Catherine Reef uncovers the true history of orphanages, revealing what it was like to eat, sleep, study, and play in such institutions, why children were sent to live there in the first place (not always because their parents were dead), what happened to them after they left, and more. Carefully researched and vividly brought to life through accessible writing, first-hand accounts, and more than 70 compelling archival photographs and prints, this intriguing piece of our country’s history should satisfy all curiosity seekers. Endnotes, bibliography, index.


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Orphanages and other homes for children have long fueled the imaginations and fantasies of young people. In the first book of its kind, award-winning nonfiction author Catherine Reef uncovers the true history of orphanages, revealing what it was like to eat, sleep, study, and play in such institutions, why children were sent to live there in the first place (not always bec Orphanages and other homes for children have long fueled the imaginations and fantasies of young people. In the first book of its kind, award-winning nonfiction author Catherine Reef uncovers the true history of orphanages, revealing what it was like to eat, sleep, study, and play in such institutions, why children were sent to live there in the first place (not always because their parents were dead), what happened to them after they left, and more. Carefully researched and vividly brought to life through accessible writing, first-hand accounts, and more than 70 compelling archival photographs and prints, this intriguing piece of our country’s history should satisfy all curiosity seekers. Endnotes, bibliography, index.

30 review for Alone in the World: Orphans and Orphanages in America

  1. 5 out of 5

    Connie T.

    This book explores orphans and orphanages from colonial times to the 1990s. Not as dry as an adult non-fiction book but not as engaging as narrative non-fiction either. The are a lot of facts strung together interspersed with examples of personal stories and photos, when available. The author shows how major events such as an end to slavery, the high mortality rate of the Civil War, the Great Depression, exploding populations, and immigration often resulted in an increased number of poor or home This book explores orphans and orphanages from colonial times to the 1990s. Not as dry as an adult non-fiction book but not as engaging as narrative non-fiction either. The are a lot of facts strung together interspersed with examples of personal stories and photos, when available. The author shows how major events such as an end to slavery, the high mortality rate of the Civil War, the Great Depression, exploding populations, and immigration often resulted in an increased number of poor or homeless children needing care. Sometimes noble efforts were made to care for these children; other times children were housed under deplorable conditions. One wonders if they went from the frying pan into the fire. Surely, some of these children might have been better off staying with their poor families. It appears that history is repeating itself. "By the late twentieth century the public was concerned that society's problems had come to resemble those of the 1800s." If one thing is clear, there are no easy answers. One size didn't fit all then and it doesn't now.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Janis

    An interesting look at how children have been helped through history--from local community to federal help. Along with orphans and half-orphans (one parent surviving but unable to care for them), others were sent by parents for other reasons. Several of my aunts were placed in an orphanage when their parents' marriage disintegrated--their mother performed in a traveling dance group while their father only wanted to take his son. The photos are...wow. My heart aches. Glad I read it. An interesting look at how children have been helped through history--from local community to federal help. Along with orphans and half-orphans (one parent surviving but unable to care for them), others were sent by parents for other reasons. Several of my aunts were placed in an orphanage when their parents' marriage disintegrated--their mother performed in a traveling dance group while their father only wanted to take his son. The photos are...wow. My heart aches. Glad I read it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nadine

    Exce, Excellent book for teens and adults. I picked it up after reading Lisa Wingate's Before We Were Yours as I wanted to know more about the history of adoption. What an eye-opener! Supporting photos are superb to support the text. Highly recommend. Exce, Excellent book for teens and adults. I picked it up after reading Lisa Wingate's Before We Were Yours as I wanted to know more about the history of adoption. What an eye-opener! Supporting photos are superb to support the text. Highly recommend.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ibennah Paul

    How do I read the book

  5. 4 out of 5

    Letia

    Reads like a middle school text book. Very informative

  6. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

    This is a non-fic book for young adults. It tells the story of orphans in US history, starting with the 1700s and moving up to today. While it does get a bit boring at times, it's pretty interesting to read about how children have been treated, and how it has differed by sex and race, too. There are pictures on every 2-page spread, which help draw the reader in. While it's not pleasure reading - there are some sad stories although nothing gets too graphic since it is for kids - it is an interest This is a non-fic book for young adults. It tells the story of orphans in US history, starting with the 1700s and moving up to today. While it does get a bit boring at times, it's pretty interesting to read about how children have been treated, and how it has differed by sex and race, too. There are pictures on every 2-page spread, which help draw the reader in. While it's not pleasure reading - there are some sad stories although nothing gets too graphic since it is for kids - it is an interesting way to learn about the realities of being an orphan.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Annie Oosterwyk

    This book fills the historical gap between Oliver Twist and today's Department of Social Services. What to do with children whose parents die or can't support them? The orphan trains are also mentioned as well as how such transfers of human life were documented (or not). The consequences for families during the Civil War due to loss of income because of soldier's deaths or disabilities is also highlighted as well as the disparity between services available to children of different races. This book fills the historical gap between Oliver Twist and today's Department of Social Services. What to do with children whose parents die or can't support them? The orphan trains are also mentioned as well as how such transfers of human life were documented (or not). The consequences for families during the Civil War due to loss of income because of soldier's deaths or disabilities is also highlighted as well as the disparity between services available to children of different races.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Debra

    This was a great book, it covers all the history facts of all the orphanges in the states however the focus is mostly back east and most of the history started there. The pictures are amazing the personal stories are heart felt this is a five star book one I will keep on my shelf.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Interesting, easy read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    CML OSU

    j362.73 R327a

  11. 4 out of 5

    Shira

  12. 4 out of 5

    Heather

  13. 5 out of 5

    Chrissy

  14. 5 out of 5

    Megan

  15. 4 out of 5

    Eileen Poles

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey

  17. 4 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly Marie

  19. 5 out of 5

    Caren

  20. 4 out of 5

    Laura

  21. 4 out of 5

    Brie Zimmermann

  22. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

  23. 5 out of 5

    Larry

  24. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Berry

  26. 5 out of 5

    Betty J

  27. 5 out of 5

    Katy Johnson

  28. 5 out of 5

    Meaghan

  29. 5 out of 5

    Amy

  30. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

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