The Orphan Train Movement of 1854-1929
Speaker: Donna Aviles
Suitable for Schools · Grades 4–12
Learn the history of this seventy-five year “social experiment”—now recognized as our country’s first Foster Care System—which transported an estimated 250,000 homeless children from the streets of East Coast cities to farming communities of the Midwest in search of stable homes. This presentation includes the first person account of orphan train rider Oliver Nordmark who, in 1906, traveled with his younger brother from the Children’s Village on Long Island to the small town of Bern, Kansas. Attendees will hear audio recordings of Oliver telling just what it was like to ride the orphan train and then be chosen by a childless farmer and his wife. Additional recordings include “life in the orphanage” and “living in a sod house on the Kansas prairie.” The presentation concludes with a discussion of the importance of journaling one’s own story, through oral history or personal narrative, as a means of preserving social history. Q&A is encouraged throughout the presentation as well as at the end.