Publication Date

2012

Abstract

Poetry was a powerful component of the nineteenth-century child rescuers’ tools for raising the consciousness — and opening the wallets — of the middle class to the plight of the poverty-stricken child. The models of childhood and children conveyed in literature for children are devised by adults, as children usually lack the power and voice to construct their own images (Holland 19). The lack of power and voice was particularly true for nineteenth-century ‘street Arabs,’ the homeless waif children, and other children of the poor living outside any kind of social structure and support (Swain 212). The child-rescue movement was especially conscious of the need to speak on behalf of these children and to construct them in particular ways in the literature designed to raise public awareness of their plight. The Evangelical founders of the various child-rescue organizations saw their work as a kind of Christian crusade — Benjamin Waugh, founder of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, described it to one of the inspectors of the Society as ‘the most religious work in the world — the protection of suffering children’ (Hobhouse 24) — and as a way of purifying and strengthening the nation. If the children the rescue organizations targeted could be rescued in time, the writers argued, their childhood could be restored.

Document Type

Book Chapter

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Admin Only

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