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Butterbox Babies Essay, Research Paper

 Lovely Babies For Adoption is what the advertisement for the Ideal Maternity

Home and Sanitarium versed to many couples unable to bear children beginning in the

late 1920’s. Although the ad held true as to the children, the operation of this business

was far from lovely. Originally designed as a sanitarium for the sick, the hospital soon

became a birthing facility. Operating without any supervision, the facility was a place of

joy for couples adopting an infant, but a place of shame and despair for unwed mothers.

Lila Gladys Coolen met and married William Peach Young in 1925. William was

an unordained seventh-day Adventist minister and Lila, also of the same faith, was a

teacher in Fox Point, Nova Scotia. After being married, the couple left Nova Scotia to

return to school in Chicago. William attended the National College of Chiropractic,

while Lila pursued a degree at the National School of Obstetrics and Midwifery. In

February of 1928, the Youngs opened The Life and Health Sanitarium out of their four

bedroom cottage. Lila began delivering babies and within a year, the facility had been

renamed The Ideal Maternity Home and Sanitarium and it s sole purpose became a

birthing facility and adoption center for unwed mothers.

During this time, Canadian and US laws were similar in banning the use of birth

control or the performance of abortions. This left many women banished and shamed

from their homes and communities because of illegitiment pregnancies. With the

creation of this facility, many unwed mothers saw an opportunity to keep their secret

from society. A newspaper advertisement placed by the Youngs, was carefully written

and geared to lure women in. It read:

Dame gossip has sent many young lives to perdition after ruining them socially,

that might have been BRIGHT STARS in society and a POWER in the world of

usefulness HAD THEY BEEN SHIELDED from the gossip when they made a

mistake (Cahill 1992)

Desperate to succeed in a closed minded society, unwed mothers were reeled in by what

appeared to be sensitivity to their mishap. Women had no idea that this shame would

control their lives and keep them quiet from revealing horrific events which took place

during their stay.

Unwed mothers not only paid for their secret in shame and grief, but also in

tremendous fees. The cost to mothers averaged three to five hundred dollars for room

and board, delivery, and adoption of their baby. Contracts had to be signed upon

admittance giving William Young the power of attorney and legal authority over the

infant and it s adoption. With their business well on it s way, a whole new, wealthy

adoption market opened. The Youngs were becoming known as the Baby Barons of

East Chester . Their four bedroom cottage was added on to and renovated into a home

with fifty-four rooms. About seventy babies resided in the nursery, lined up in bassinets

for picking, similar to produce at the market.

In the US many couples were restricted from adopting because of their age and

state laws and because of adoption agencies rules prohibiting children to be placed with

families of a different religious background. This drew many couples from the New York

and New Jersey area, especially Jews. Although it is said you can not put a value on

human life, infants at the facility went for a pretty penny, averaging five to ten thousand

dollars. This brought a huge profit for the Youngs, and a booming business. They were

completely naive thinking their acts would never catch up with them.

Out of the 1,400 to 1,600 babies born at the home, only about 1,000 were

actually adopted out. Any infants who were sick, deformed, or disabled, or of a mixed

race were labeled unmarketable . These infants were fed only molasses and water,

which caused them to survive a mere two weeks, if that. The unmarketable babies

became the Butterbox Babies , because their lifeless bodies were placed in small

wooden grocery boxes from the local grocer. They were then buried in open graves, put

out in the sea, or sometimes burned in the home s furnace. In some cases, married

couples who came to the facility solely for birthing their child were told the infant had

died. The Youngs horrific crimes went without notice for years because of lacking

licensing laws. In 1940, new licensing laws were created upon the amendment of the

Maternity Boarding House Act.

Health officials finally intervened, and began to investigate violations of the new

adoption laws. A local publishing company displayed the truth behind the facility s

doors. Pediatricians inspections testified to striking overcrowding , fly-filled

nurseries , and malnourished children . Witnesses who had birthed in the home also

came forward to admit to their babies being neglected and murdered. Women also

admitted to lying on adoption papers and even posing as nurses for health inspectors

visits. On November 17, 1945, the Ideal Maternity Home was ordered closed, and the

Butterbox Babies tragedy came to an end.

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