Building the Invisible Orphanage: A Prehistory of the American Welfare System

By Matthew A. Crenson | Go to book overview

5
From Orphanage to Home

BY THE START of the twentieth century, there. was a name for the collection of disabilities that orphanages were alleged to impose on their inmates. It was called "institutionalism." The term referred to the stunted emotional development that seemed charactcristic of asylum children, but it was also applied to the institutional practices that supposedly produced it. Institutionalism, as Hastings H. Hart observed, embraced both "the artificial environment and its unfavorable effect upon the initiative, independence, and force of the child." Even the people who ran orphan asylums accepted the label and the institutional failings that it marked out for attention. Rudolph R. Reeder, superintendent of the New York Orphan Asylum, a Protestant esttblishment at Hastings-on-Hudson, enumerated the usages covered by the term. Institutionalism, he said, was

a combination of rote, routine, and dead levelism. It is law and coercion, without liberty or individual initiative. It is system gone to seed. It is praying by rote, singing by rote, repeating portions of the Bible by rote. It is rising at a fixed hour, saying off a prayer in concert, washing in a row under the inspection of a caretaker, lockstepping it into the dining-room, repeating in meaningless monotone a set blessing over bread and milk.

-113-

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Building the Invisible Orphanage: A Prehistory of the American Welfare System
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Decline of the Orphanage and the Invention of Welfare 7
  • 2 - The Institutional Inclination 37
  • 3 - Two Dimensions of Institutional Change 61
  • 4 - Institutional Self-Doubt and Internal Reform 92
  • 5 - From Orphanage to Home 113
  • 6 - The Orphanage Reaches Outward 147
  • 7 - "The Unwalled Institution of the State" 171
  • 8 - The Perils of Placing Out 202
  • 9 - "The Experiment of Having No Home" 227
  • 10 - Mobilizing for Mothers' Pensions 246
  • 11 - Religious Wars 284
  • Conclusion: An End to the Orphanage 306
  • Notes 333
  • Index 375
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