Gender and Institutional Child Care
This chapter begins with the James Caldwell story, which brings the experience of fathers into sharp relief—a significant, and all but forgotten, aspect of orphanage history—as well as the broader history of child care, in the United States. While many orphanage children had living fathers, the institutional managers constructed “orphans” as fatherless, perpetuating a gendered and racialized logic of dependency. Yet for those men using the orphanages as a form of child care, their experiences as widowers differed from those of solo women with children. Furthermore, the experiences of African American and white working-class men were also quite different. Ultimately, the orphanages help reveal the extent to which each group of men was involved with the care of their children, as well as the connection between their breadwinning role and family life.
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