Starting in the 1850s, there were great increases in urbanization. Movements such as The Great Migration lead to huge populations in newly industrialized cities. In addition, there was a great increase in immigration, especially from families of eastern and southern European descent. The Orphan Train Movement’s purpose was to give the thousands of children in New York City that were left without homes due to increased urbanization and industrialization a new family out west with good living conditions and values and to increase the number of farm workers. The children mostly were placed with good families, but some children were treated as slaved by their families. Additionally, most of the children were excited to work; however, some were inept at doing farm work and were more detrimental than helpful to their new family.
The founder of The Children’s Aid Society, the driving force behind the Orphan Train Movement, was Charles Loring Brace. Brace first realized the amount of homeless children while working at a mission center. Brace wanted to give homes to the over 30,000 children living on the streets in the 1850s. Speaking about the situation at hand, Brace noted:
“There were a large number of people with nothing to do. Nobody was at fault. Work could not be found for them. But they must be relieved. Their children must be saved; and they cannot save themselves.”
He believed that the Protestant families in the west living on farms would give the children the fresh air and morals that they needed to grow up to be upstanding citizens. When thinking of the best ways to transport the children from cities like New York to the western part of America, The Children’s Aid Society decided to take advantage of the over 30,500 miles of railroads that were in place by 1860. The railroads gave subsidies that helped give a cheaper rate to the children riding the trains. The Children’s Aid Society, however, was not the only organization involved in the Orphan Train Movement. One of the other prominent societies involved was the Sisters of Charity. Run by sisters who gave women with no other option refuge and often found babies left on their doorstep, one of the members of the Sisters of Charity, Sister Mary...