PODCAST | C19 | The Founding Mothers of American Adoption
C19 PODCAST Season 5, Episode 2
In 1842, nine years before the first adoption law was passed in the United States, two sisters from Boston, Anstrice and Eunice C. Fellows, began what would be the first adoption agency—in the form of a reform periodical, The Orphans’ Advocate and Social Monitor. With only the aid of their pens, in a small office near the Boston Common, these women created a cultural shift regarding orphaned and displaced children.
In this episode, Sophia Hadley (Boston University) tells the story of the Fellows’ revolutionary work and their intervention into a surprisingly contentious discourse on orphan care in the nineteenth century. Amidst the rise of institutional care for orphans, the sisters promote the practice of adoption, specifically adoption within the local community. In the editorial and fictional works within the publication, the Fellows imagine varied members of the community—single, married, male, female, poor, and rich—as capable of having beneficial and empowering relationships with children among them, regardless of biological relation to them. Eschewing an individualistic or institutional approach to child-rearing, these authors imagine a collective responsibility in the care of children. This vision proves liberating for both the children and the guardians alike, shaping families in nontraditional ways. During our contemporary time in which the family unit is being productively reimagined, the forgotten story of the Fellows sisters and their incredible periodical can provide a priceless resource. This episode was produced by Sophia Hadley. Additional production support was provided by Lizzy LeRud (Georgia Institute of Technology).