Orphanages for Girls in Stockholm, 1870-1920: A Case Study in European Social History

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An historical and sociological examination of case studies from five girls orphanages in Sweden focusing on how the lives and futures of girls were shaped by those institutions from the late nineteenth-century until World War II.


“Ingrid Söderlind’s study is an original contribution to both the history and the sociology of childhood and takes advantage of the insights of previous historical scholarship. The approach allows her to capture the experiences of the children and the changes of the institution over a politically formative time period… [This] study brings fresh and novel insights to the complexities of the role filled by orphanages for children, for parents and for civil society, by a nuanced, fine-tuned, and insightful analyses of a not too distant past.”
- Professor Bengt Sandin,
Dept., of Thematic Studies, Child Studies,
University of Linköping, Sweden

“The author has a solid collection of primary sources from the archives of the five orphanages chosen as case studies, which she uses to present new knowledge on a variety of topics. She has read widely in the secondary sources, and has consistently compared her findings to those for similar institutions in Sweden and abroad.”
-Colin Heywood, Professor Emeritus,
University of Nottingham, UK

“Söderlind has given us a very fine case study that offers a range of orphanages sufficient to compare across cases and so can discuss similarities and differences among them. She constantly draws on examples from other studies in Europe and the United States that lends perspective to any issue.”
-Dr. Stephen Lassonde, Ph.D.,
Lecturer on History,
Harvard University

Table of Contents

Foreword by Bengt Sandin
Preface and Acknowledgments
Chapter 1:

Many Orphanages for Girls – Few for Boys
Perspectives on Orphanages
Chapter 2:
Poor Children, Foster Homes and Orphanages

Local Activities and National Legislation
Home and Family in Focus
A New Ideal of Childhood
Moving Children – The Solution to Social Problems
Dependent Children and Delinquent Children
Foster Homes and Children’s Homes
Foster Homes
Children’s Homes
Foster Home or Institution? For Whom and Where?

Chapter 3:
Five Orphanages for Girls in Stockholm

-The Founders, the Girls, the Parents
The Founders and Boards of Trustees
The Interest in Girls
The Girls and their Families
The Age and Home Conditions of the Girls
Differing Values

Coercion or Help?
Children’s Home or Foster Home? Parents’ Views
Chapter 4:
Becoming a Good Servant Girl

The Girls’ orphanage as family and Home
Getting a New Identity
A Divided Parenthood
Female Dominance
Creating a Sibling Group
The Home

Work, School and Socialization
School Classes
Practical Training
School or Work?
Importance of One’s Own School
Seclusion and Groups

Chapter 5:
Good Behavior and Misconduct

“The girls’ behavior – good”
Competent, Quiet, Calm but seldom Happy -the Matron’s Judgment
Maintaining Order and Discipline
The Dream of becoming a Teacher
Teacher Training and Other Forms of Education From Orphanage Girl to Teacher at the Orphanage
The Girl in Boy’s Clothing
Chapter 6:
Institutions or Foster Homes? – City or Countryside?

Placement in Foster Homes
Problems with Placement in Foster Care
Sexual Abuse
Placement in Foster Homes
-on Conditions set by the Orphanage

The City as a Good Environment for Growing Up
The Institution and the City – Protection and Opportunities for the Future?
Chapter 7: Leaving the Institution and Then What?
To Parents and Other Relatives
In Service
Families who Employed Girls from the orphanages
“Visited the institution, looked capable and nice”
Supervision or Voluntary Contract?
Support and Help to Released Girls
“Still decent” – On the Framework for Support and Help

Chapter 8:
Why Orphanages for Girls? Concluding Reflections

Girls, Home and Work
In the Best Interests of the Children or the Institution?
Orphanages and the Future of the Girls
Index of Names
Subject Index

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