The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction by Linda Gordon

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Synopsis

In 1904, New York nuns brought forty Irish orphans to a remote Arizona mining camp, to be placed with Catholic families. The Catholic families were Mexican, as was the majority of the population. Soon the town's Anglos, furious at this "interracial" transgression, formed a vigilante squad that kidnapped the children and nearly lynched the nuns and the local priest. The Catholic Church sued to get its wards back, but all the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, ruled in favor of the vigilantes.

The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction tells this disturbing and dramatic tale to illuminate the creation of racial boundaries along the Mexican border. Clifton/Morenci, Arizona, was a "wild West" boomtown, where the mines and smelters pulled in thousands of Mexican immigrant workers. Racial walls hardened as the mines became big business and whiteness became a marker of superiority. These already volatile race and class relations produced passions that erupted in the "orphan incident." To the Anglos of Clifton/Morenci, placing a white child with a Mexican family was tantamount to child abuse, and they saw their kidnapping as a rescue.

Women initiated both sides of this confrontation. Mexican women agreed to take in these orphans, both serving their church and asserting a maternal prerogative; Anglo women believed they had to "save" the orphans, and they organized a vigilante squad to do it. In retelling this nearly forgotten piece of American history, Linda Gordon brilliantly recreates and dissects the tangled intersection of family and racial values, in a gripping story that resonates with today's conflicts over the "best interests of the child."

 

About Linda Gordon

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Linda Gordon is the Florence Kelley Professor of History at New York University. She is the author of numerous books including Dorothea Lange and Impounded, and won the Bancroft Prize for The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction. She lives in New York.
 
Published February 9, 2011 by Harvard University Press. 432 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction

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In 1859, the New York Times termed urban orphans the ulcers of society. By 1864, child welfare crusaders were advocating their adoption by rural families and sending trains full of orphaned and ab

Nov 01 1999 | Read Full Review of The Great Arizona Orphan Abdu...

Publishers Weekly

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In 1859, the New York Times termed urban orphans the ""ulcers of society."" By 1864, child welfare crusaders were advocating their adoption by rural families and sending trains full of orphaned and abandoned children westward.

| Read Full Review of The Great Arizona Orphan Abdu...

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