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Monday, May 3, 2021

Practice Babies?

 


In 1919, Cornell pioneered the first degree-granting program in the country for women called “Domestic Economics.” Its aim was to apply scientific principles to domestic tasks deemed “Mothercraft” — such as making meals, cleaning and ironing, household budgeting, and raising children. Female coeds — five or six at a time — lived together in on-campus “Homemaking Apartments” and collectively mothered the practice babies.

Ranging in age from three weeks to a few months old, babies were loaned to the college for a year. The contracts between the orphanages and Cornell stated the babies “could be returned at any time if there was dissatisfaction on the part of the college.”

Their birth names and identities were erased, and they were fatted and raised by a rotating lineup of up to six practice mothers at a time. The co-eds’ work was divided into six parts, including the job of mother and assistant mother.

Domecon babies were highly sought-after for adoption. Adoptive parents were convinced that because the babies were being raised in ideal conditions and by scientific methods it would ensure a smooth family transition. A 1923 newspaper article titled “Coeds at Cornell Mother Real, Live Practice Babies” referred to the babies as “super children.”

The program ran through 1954. In all, 119 children were raised in this manner and adopted, and Dickie Domecon was the first. Most grew up with no knowledge of having been abandoned or surrendered, or having been a Domecon baby.

All identifying records were destroyed.

READ THIS 

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This essay is excerpted from Megan Culhane Galbraith’s The Guild of the Infant Saviour: An Adopted Child’s Memory Book, published by Mad Creek Books, an imprint of the Ohio State University Press.

 

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Rebecca Tallbear entitled: “DNA, Blood, and Racializing the Tribe”, bearing out what I only inferred:

Detailed discussion of the Bering Strait theory and other scientific theories about the population of the modern-day Americas is beyond the scope of this essay. However, it should be noted that Indian people have expressed suspicion that DNA analysis is a tool that scientists will use to support theories about the origins of tribal people that contradict tribal oral histories and origin stories. Perhaps more important,the alternative origin stories of scientists are seen as intending to weaken tribal land and other legal claims (and even diminish a history of colonialism?) that are supported in U.S. federal and tribal law. As genetic evidence has already been used to resolve land conflicts in Asian and Eastern European countries, this is not an unfounded fear.

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