‘The Lost Path’ by Frederick Walker, 1863.
May 5 1882– with files from The Almonte Gazette
A passenger on the train from Ottawa to Brockville noticed a woman in a second class car with a large-sized basket containing four or five infants of very tender years. In fact they did not appear to be more than a few weeks, and in one or two cases only a-few days old.
“You have a large family of very young people to look after,” said the gentleman.
“Yes,” was the curt reply.
“Where do they come from” he asked?
“Ottawa and the surrounding rural area,” she replied.
“And may I ask where you are taking them to ?”
No replies could be more curt, or at the same time more to the point. On his return to the city the gentleman informed a reporter of the incident, who set about making inquiries. After some difficulty the irrepressible scribe discovered that a certain establishment in the guise of a half boarding-house, lying-in-hospital existed in the city, and that several young women, one or two said to be “highly respectable,” were “inmates,” or “ boarders,” or “lodgers,’’ or patients at the time.
Entering into conversation with the female directress it was learned that a girl “in trouble” could be sent there on payment of four dollars per week, “strictly in advance,” and four dollars more for the doctor who would attend at the time of her confinement.
The patient was to have a room to herself and could be secluded or not as she pleased. After her confinement if she so desired, by the payment of four dollars more, the unfortunate offspring would be taken away at the end of forty-eight hours and sent to Montreal. It was one of the periodical “batches” of helpless infants that were en route to the Commercial Metropolis that at our gentleman friend noticed on the cars.
From one of the patients it was learned that she had been a victim of misplaced confidence. She had loved a member of the civil service, a young and good looking servant, not wisely, but too well. The result was that it was necessary to take care of her. She could not remain at home, and therefore the private lying-in hospital came in most opportunely.
In course of conversation she said that she had arranged to have the issue of her folly taken to Montreal and she would have “no more trouble about it”. That fact seemed to give her great consolation, and yet, alas what a humiliating, what a cruel, unmotherly phase of human nature did this heartless remark of this heartless girl present. And yet, her case is by no means a singular one.
It is no wonder the infantile mortality of Montreal is so great; no wonder the sanitary authorities of that city are called upon so frequently and urgently by the press to account for the high infantile death rate for a long time considered just cause of disgrace. And yet the explanation is not hard to reach. Ottawa sends its quota; Toronto does and the other cities follow suit. Girls will, doubtless be betrayed by heartless scoundrels, but in the name of all that is just and kind some means should be adopted to protect the helpless infantile victims.
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