Orphan Trains by Stephen O'Connor
The Story of Charles Loring Brace and the Children He Saved and Failed

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Synopsis

A powerful blend of history, biography, and adventure, ORPHAN TRAINS fills a grievous gap in the American story. Tracing the evolution of the Children’s Aid Society, this dramatic narrative tells the fascinating tale of one of the most famous — and sometimes infamous — child welfare programs: the orphan trains, which spirited away some 250,000 abandoned children into the homes of rural families in the Midwest.
In mid-nineteenth-century New York, vagrant children, whether orphans or runaways, filled the streets. The city’s solution for years had been to sweep these children into prisons or almshouses. But a young minister named Charles Loring Brace took a different tack. With the creation of the Children’s Aid Society in 1853, he provided homeless youngsters with shelter, education, and, for many, a new family out west. The family matching process was haphazard, to say the least: at town meetings, farming families took their pick of the orphan train riders. Some youngsters, such as James Brady, who became governor of Alaska, found loving homes, while others, such as Charley Miller, who shot two boys on a train in Wyoming, saw no end to their misery. Complete with extraordinary photographs and deeply moving stories, Orphan Trains gives invaluable insights into a creative genius whose pioneering, if controversial, efforts inform child rescue work today.
 

About Stephen O'Connor

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Stephen O'Connor is the author of Will My Name Be Shouted Out?, an account of his years teaching creative writing at an inner-city school in New York. Katha Pollitt called it a "wonderful, heartbreaking, enraging book." O'Connor is also the author of Rescue, a collection of short fiction. An adjunct professor in creative writing at Lehman College, he also teaches at the New School.
 
Published February 8, 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 384 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Children's Books, Parenting & Relationships, Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math. Non-fiction

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O'Connor (Will My Name Be Shouted Out?, 1996) crafts a vibrant, wide-ranging narrative of Charles Loring Brace's child-welfare movement, which had a profound influence on America's treatment of disadvantaged youth.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of Orphan Trains: The Story of C...

Publishers Weekly

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From 1854 to 1929, an estimated 250,000 children were emigrated out of vice-ridden urban areas and put up for grabs in the West, where labor was in short supply. Brace (1826-1890) educated him

Feb 05 2001 | Read Full Review of Orphan Trains: The Story of C...

Publishers Weekly

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From 1854 to 1929, an estimated 250,000 children were emigrated out of vice-ridden urban areas and put up for grabs in the West, where labor was in short supply. Brace (1826-1890) educated him

Feb 05 2001 | Read Full Review of Orphan Trains: The Story of C...

Austin Chronicle

One of the most grievous failures of the Orphan Trains was that after dropping the children off, only scant efforts were made to track the children's lives with their adopted families.

Mar 02 2001 | Read Full Review of Orphan Trains: The Story of C...

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