Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss

Janet Dean | Orphanages

November 13, 2008

Thanks to Fresh Fiction for inviting me to guest blog today. November isn’t usually the prettiest month here in the Midwest, but it’s still a favorite of mine. I’ve always loved the Thanksgiving holiday and our first child was born in November. Although our daughter’s original due date was November 13, as babies will, she came a little later. Even with little sleep and the extra pounds I could have done without, we put our firstborn at the top of our “thankful for” list that Thanksgiving. And there she’s remained, joined by her younger sister and down the road, their husbands and our four grandchildren. Family means a great deal to me. Perhaps that’s why I was fascinated the first time I heard about the orphan train and decided to use this slice of history in a book.

Before writing my novel, I researched the orphan train phenomena. Between the years of 1853-1929, over 250,000 children were sent by train to new homes in the Midwest and beyond. The idea to place out orphans originated with Methodist minister Charles Loring Brace, founder of The Children’s Aid Society. At the time Brace came up with the plan, immigrants were pouring into the country. Problems with poverty and disease were staggering. Brace saw children working in sweatshops, peddling newspapers and living on the streets. His and other orphanages overflowed. He decided relocating these children to homes in agricultural areas would give them a chance for a better life. For some, it did. Others lived more like indentured servants than members of a family.

My “what if” moment became the kernel for Adelaide’s story in Courting Miss Adelaide, Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historical, September, 2008—What if a lonely spinster wanted a child and saw the orphan train as her last chance for motherhood? Though the town fathers refused to give a single woman a child, Adelaide wasn’t a quitter. Her life and that of editor Charles Graves becomes entangled with two of those orphans. Already at odds over dual ownership of the town newspaper, tensions rise for Charles and Adelaide when she insists a respected man in town is abusing William and Emma, the orphans in his care. Charles and Adelaide’s investigation tests their faith, threatens their livelihoods, and then their lives, yet, neither can turn away from a child in jeopardy.

It breaks my heart to think of children suffering under the hands of adults, especially those who are to love them. Sadly, the problem is still with us today. My prayer is that all children may one day live in the happy, safe homes they deserve. Until then, I hope someone will notice the abuse and speak up as Adelaide had the courage to do. To me family isn’t restricted to those sitting around our tables this Thanksgiving. Family includes all of us.

My second book, Courting the Doctor’s Daughter, Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historical, will release in May 2009. As I write my third book while leaves are falling and we brace for another winter, I want to express my thanks to all my readers. Your letters and e-mails are a huge blessing and I’m grateful for your encouraging words.

Janet Dean

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