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140 Canadum Reviewof American Studies chusetts political culture in the period before 1775. The Shaysites' Maine counterparts, in contrast, turned out to be far more determined to take advantage of the government to achieve their ends, and, largely for this reason , far more successful in reshaping the boundaries of public life. Taken together, the essays that Gross has brought together highlight some of the strengths and weaknesses of the 'new' social history, with its intensive investigation of particular social settings. Never before has this particular patch of Massachusetts back country been analyzed in such loving detail. Yet here lies a paradox. Once the Shaysites are revealed in all their historical specificity, their protest loses much of its mythic grandeur. Indeed, it may well be that one reason so many of the authors find persuasive the currently fashionable "market revolution" thesis is precisely because it helps to invest the Shaysites with some kind of larger significance. After all, in the grand scheme of things, it is hard to avoid Taylor's implicit conclusion that the protest simply did not amount to much. Thus, while there can be little doubt but that, as historians, we are much indebted to Daniel Shays for helping to spark such an intensive investigation of the Massachusetts back country, 1t is by no means self-evident why the public-at-large should feel similarly obliged. Richard R John University of Illinois at Chicago Marilyn Irvin Holt. The Orphan Trains: Placing Out in America. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 1994. Pp. 248, bibliography and index. In the three decades since the publication of Miriam Z. Langsam's Children West {Madison: Sate Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1964), the first scholarly study of the child placement movement, the story of urban children taken to western farms aboard "orphan trains" has been transformed from a little noted episode in American welfare history into the stuff of magazine articles and television docudramas. Despite mounting public interest m the subject, evident in the founding of the Orphan Train Heritage Society, m Springdale, Arkansas, in 1987, the orphan train phenomenon attracted surprisingly little scholarly attention. Fortunately, that oversight has now been corrected. BookReviews 141 Like many early-nineteenth-century innovations in the care of the dependent and deviant, the idea of placing children with rural families was European in origin. American child welfare advocates, such as Charles Loring Braceof the New York Children's Aid Society and John Earl Williams of the Boston Children's Mission were attracted to the idea of foster homes partly out of dissatisfaction with alternative methods of dealing with destitute, homeless, neglected, and delinquent children-such as indenture or incarceration in a house of refuge or a poorhouse. Holt argues that the placing out system was also prompted not only by the growing poverty class in eastern cities and the romanticizing of the pastoral life-the factors emphasizedby Langsam-but by the western demands for agricultural labourers. Beginning with a modest in-state model by the Boston Children's Mission, in 1849, the orphan trains eventually took some 200,000 children and teenagers and several thousand adults from eastern cities to rural areas in the old Northwest and central plains, as well as the Pacific coast, the South, and the Southwest. Holt seeks to stake out a middle ground between those who accuse placing out advocates of cloaking fears of the lower class in the guise of charity and those (like Langsam) who view the placing out system as a positive alternative to reformatories and orphanages. Rejecting the more extreme criticism of placing out as a malicious design to break up poor families and exploit child labour, she nonetheless presents a critical perspective, noting that contrary to the assurances of the child welfare agencies, many children were haphazardly placed with whoever expressed an interest and were rarely checked upon after placement. She also observes that most of the children placed on western farms were not orphans at all and that nearly half had at least one living parent. She is particularly critical of the agencies' failure to carefully investigate the background of foster families or to set up legal guidelines for child placement; of the placement advocates' ethnic and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 140-142
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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