Abstract

In nineteenth-century Europe, the foundling hospital grew beyond its traditional purpose of mitigating the shame of unwed mothers by also permitting widows, widowers, and poor married couples to abandon their children there temporarily. In the Foundling Hospital of Madrid (fhm), this new short-term abandonment could be completely anonymous due to the implementation of a wheel—a device on the outside wall of the institution that could be turned to place a child inside—which remained open until 1929. The use of survival-analysis techniques to disentangle the determinants of retrieval in a discrete framework reveals important differences in the situations of the women who abandoned their children at the fhm, partly depending on whether they accessed it through the Maternity Hospital after giving birth or they accessed it directly. The evidence suggests that those who abandoned their children through the Maternity Hospital retrieved them only when they had attained a certain degree of economic stability, whereas those who abandoned otherwise did so just as soon as the immediate condition prompting the abandonment had improved.

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