By Rachel G. Fuchs
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Additional resources for Abandoned children: foundlings and child welfare in nineteenth-century France
Admissions to the Hôpital grew from 312 in 1670 to 7,676 in 1772, a twenty-five-fold increase. 22 The increase in the population of Paris played only a small part in the growth of the numbers of abandoned children. 23 Flandrin has pointed to high fertility rate throughout the seventeenth and first half of the eighteenth century. By the second half of the eighteenth century, however, the fertility rate ceased to be so high, both among the peasants and in the urban population,24 but abandonment steadily rose during the second half of the eighteenth century.
What was to become one of the major hospitals of Paris had its beginnings in 1638 when Vincent de Paul visited the Maison de la Couche and rallied the Ladies of Charity to the cause of the abandoned child on the basis of the innocence of childhood. 14 The number of abandoned children in Paris grew dramatically in subsequent decades. 15 Unrecorded infanticides probably diminished as aid for abandoned children increased. In Paris alone there were 372 abandoned children in 1640; forty years later there were 890; and in 1690 there were 1504.
The wholesale shipment of children from the countryside to Paris gives credence to the idea that child abandonment was not solely an urban phenomenon. The rural character of the problem is apparent from the decrease of about thirteen percent of the numbers of children abandoned in Paris each of the two years1773 and 1779in which city authorities promulgated and enforced decrees forbidding the transport of children from the provinces to Paris. 30 In 1779 a national decree stipulated that unwanted children should be brought to the nearest hospital, which had to accept the child; transportation of children to the capital was expressly forbidden.
Abandoned children: foundlings and child welfare in nineteenth-century France by Rachel G. Fuchs