I love watching Finding Your Roots on the PBS channel. Here in my town it’s broadcast on Tuesdays. I just love to watch a family ancestral history unfold and see where genealogy can take these celebrities. On the last show, Henry Louis Gates told one woman that her great grandmother came by way of a foundling wheel.
That intrigued me so I had to go look it up. The term originated in 1198 by the current Pope of the Catholic Church. He was appalled at the number of babies found drowned by their impoverished parents in creeks and rivers so he decreed that these devices offering an alternative to drowning were to be installed in every church in the region.
These foundling wheels consisted of what looked like a barrel cut in half and placed where they could rotate in an outside church wall. A parent unable to feed or care for their child would place the baby inside the container and rotate it inside. This was usually done under cover of darkness to preserve anonymity. Then, they’d pull a string that rang a bell and a nun would go get it. A lot of the babies had some type of disease or infirmity and died, but it was far more humane than drowning.
How ingenious. I found this so interesting. Here’s a picture of one from a church in France.
Foundling wheels were taken out of use in the 19th century and replaced in 1952 with what was called “baby hatches.” It’s basically the same idea but the babies can be left anonymously in hospitals, churches, fire stations and other designated safe places.
In Germany, a baby will receive care for eight weeks and during that time the mother can return and get it if she so chooses. After the eight weeks, the baby is adopted out. Sometimes, a harried mother loves her child but just needs a little break. They give her the chance.
Baby Hatches are found in almost every country and serve a real purpose. In the U.S. we have a “safe haven law” that protects parents from being charged. And curiously, mothers and fathers can leave not just babies but any child up to age 18.
Probably half of all my books have an orphaned or abandoned child in them. I simply love writing about them because they’re so vulnerable and desperately need someone to care. Back in the early days orphaned children flooded the country. On the American Frontier, adults died of rampant disease, epidemics, and childbirth. The lack of medical care contributed greatly.
I have a free short story – The Miracle – up on my website if you’d like to go read it. Click HERE
Also, the Love Train series is chugging right along. Only three more to go until mine. FANCY will be up for preorder on July 1st so watch for it. I can’t wait to share the story with all of you. Fancy Dalton was told her baby was stillborn at birth only it wasn’t and she’s determined to find and get her son back or die trying. It’s a touching story of a young mother’s heartache and discovering love along the way. Here’s a link to the first six – CLICK HERE
Do you think foundling wheels and baby hatches are helpful? There are some who argue against them. Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card.
That’s all until next time. Stay cool and happy. And if you haven’t signed up for my newsletter, you can HERE.