Saturday, January 30, 2010

On the Bookshelf: The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction

Gordon, Linda. The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1999.

Since some of my ancestors lived in Arizona and were early settlers there, I am interested in books about the state.  Prof. Linda Gordon is also one of my favorite authors so I was exited to read The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction.  This story is one that might be of interest to those with Arizona mining and Orphan Train ancestors.

This is the story of a group of orphans from the New York Foundling Hospital who were sent out on an Orphan Train to an Arizona mining camp.  The Caucasian, mostly Irish, orphans were given to Mexican Catholic families residing and working in the mining town. The resulting story is one of racism, vigilantism, and  family.

Prof. Gordon conducted her research both in Arizona and with the New York Foundling Hospital Archives.  I believe that some of the detail of the orphan train movement and this history of orphans in New York during the early 1900's will be of interest to researchers who do not have Arizona ancestors. I also found her description of what it was like to work in a mine to be very informative and include detail that really brought that type of work to life for me. I had an appreciation of this back-breaking labor but her discussion brought the day to day facts about what it was like for miners to life.

I would recommed reading Gordon's  Notes section in the back of the book to learn more about the sources and research she conducted.

When I was considering purchasing this book, I read a bunch of reviews and noticed that quite a few college history students gave the book low ratings for its length and in-depth analysis.  This book is lengthy at over 300 pages and does go into detail about not only the event the title describes but also mining, relationships between races and gender, orphans and history.  Because of this, I think it's an important read for genealogists to not only understand some social history but also better understand the events of the day.

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