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Walls for the Wind by [Williams, Alethea]
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Walls for the Wind Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Length: 223 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
Page Flip: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews


2015 LARAMIE AWARDS 1st Place Prairie Fiction winner
2015 WILL ROGERS MEDALLION gold level winner

5-star Book Review
Reviewed by Raanan Geberer for Readers' Favorite 
   Walls For The Wind by Alethea Williams is a look at life in the Old West from a different perspective--the perspective of children and teenagers who were brought there in the famous "orphan trains." ... In Walls For The Wind, Alethea Williams proves herself a master of description. She is as adept at describing the moralistic, religion-oriented world of the Rev. Howe's Manhattan orphanage as she is in describing rough-and-ready boom towns of the West such as Julesburg, Colorado, and Cheyenne, Wyoming. Many of the details she describes are left out of the typical Western story, such as how exploitative newspaper reporters accompanied the railroads west, hoping to feed juicy stories of frontier life to their readers back East. All in all, Williams clearly has a real feeling for the West, as befits someone who has lived in Wyoming most of her life. For a fresh take on the Old West, be sure to read Walls For The Wind.

From the Author


     BETWEEN 1850 AND 1930 about 35 million immigrants entered the U.S., looking for jobs, religious freedom, and land. Walls for the Wind takes place in 1866-67, after the end of the Civil War. The largest number of immigrants to America between 1840 and 1860 were German and Irish. In 1848 there was a failed revolution in Germany against the Austrians, with between a quarter of a million and a million and half people leaving Germany. In 1845, a blight lasting six years struck the Irish potato crop, causing it to rot in the ground. Over one million people died in the famine, and another million emigrated out of the country.
     AFTER THE U.S. CIVIL WAR and with the completion of the transcontinental railroad, the notion of free land was heavily advertised in Europe and attracted millions more immigrants looking for an opportunity to better themselves. Immigrants lived in tenement in unsanitary, overcrowded conditions. The population of New York City 1850 was about 513,000, and the immigrants kept coming. Workers who could afford the price could pay a nickel a night to a boardinghouse just to have a place to sleep. Those who lived in the tenements, as bad as those cramped and dirty conditions were, were luckier than those who lived in warrens of tunnels beneath the streets of Five Points. There was no place for children to play except the streets and alleys. A telltale sign of a family's relative wealth was if a child had shoes. Immigrant laborers died of accidents, disease, and alcohol. When children were orphaned or half-orphaned, they were often put out on the streets to fend for themselves. Boys hauled wood and packages, sold newspapers, blacked boots, or wore advertising sandwich boards. Girls had fewer choices. They could sing on street corners, or sell flowers or matches. Unprotected children were taught to smoke and drink and swear and steal, and probably worse. They were often victimized. Children formed gangs for their own defense and survived in whatever ways they could.
     IT IS ESTIMATED BETWEEN 10 and 15 thousand children were living on the streets of New York City in 1850. By the mid 1860s, numbers were much higher. If orphans found work, they could pay the same five cents as adults for a chance to sleep indoors. Charities ran night schools so homeless children could have a chance at some education. Sunday school began as actual reading and ciphering classes for the unfortunate. Although institutions for the housing of orphans existed, those weren't considered an ideal solution. Charitable organizations began casting about for a different resolution to the burgeoning problem of gangs of street urchins. Charles Loring Brace founded the Children's Aid Society in 1853. He was a graduate of the Union Theological Seminary in New York and worked in a New York City mission before beginning his own organization in conjunction with prominent citizens. The New York Children's Aid Society was based on a belief in religion, self-help, and a value for education. He worked in New York City to get homeless or "wayward" children off the streets and give them a safe place to stay and even an education. At the Newsboys Homes, boys could pay three cents a night for a place to stay. The Children's Aid Society worked with the street children's independent nature and did not force them to receive aid. For boys, there were farm schools and vocational schools where they were taught useful skills like horseshoeing, cabinetry, and printing. Girls were taught such things as dress and hat making. Very soon after starting these schools and homes, Reverend Brace realized the enormity of the problem and quickly devised a plan to lessen the pressure on city institutions. Brace based his ideas for sending children to farming families on observations he had made during a trip to Europe in 1851, where he witnessed a German program of rehabilitating juvenile delinquents by placing them with rural families. 
     INDENTURE HAD A LONG history. In order for a poor person to immigrate to America, his parents might indenture him, or he might indenture himself, to a person of means. The terms of the agreement were spelled out as to what was expected of the indentured person, but more importantly what was expected of the person purchasing the labor of the apprentice. There were programs already in place in the United States to deal with "street rats," as they were called. Indentured children were being sent to families out West by the New York House of Refuge and the New York Juvenile Asylum. The Children's Aid Society program differed from other programs. It recognized the difference between homeless children and juvenile delinquents - a distinction that had not really been made during the Victorian Era. The Children's Aid Society placed out children younger than the working age children other programs focused on. The children were to work for room and board, and the emphasis was on Protestant values. The children were to be fed and clothed, and sent to school for at least some months of the year. The Children's Aid Society retained control of the child's welfare. Agents checked on the children, and no one was forced to remain in an objectionable placement. Adoption of the children wasn't insisted upon. This was the predecessor to today's modern foster care system. The New York Foundling Hospital had also begun a program of sending children on trains to families outside the city. This was the Catholic counterpart to the Children's Aid Society. Irish Catholic immigrants wouldn't have anything to do with the Protestant Children's Aid Society. The Foundling Hospital program was started in 1869 by the Sisters of Charity and took in infants.
     THE SISTERS SENT OUT baby trains and started a process where people could "apply" for children. Posters and flyers were displayed in towns along the way, and the news of the orphans' arrival disseminated to the newspapers by the placing agents. Some people felt the cities were trying to export problem children to the country. Arrangements were usually made in advance with local churches to take the children off the train and show them in public venues, such as the ubiquitous Victorian era Opera House. Between 1854 and 1929, roughly 250,000 children were sent to new homes outside the big eastern cities. CAS and other organizations took advantage of the industrialization that was helping to create many of the problems they faced each day. 
     THE RAILS OF THE transcontinental railroad were joined on May 10, 1869 at Promontory Summit, Utah, 15 years after the first orphan trains left New York City. It is out of this unique combination of immigration, industrialization and compassion for children living on the streets of New York that the Children's Aid Society grew to become the first of many organizations to attempt a massive relocation effort of New York City's homeless children. Railroads donated the cheapest seats for transporting orphans, or else provided it at a discount. Children were provided a set of clothes, as many of them as possible with a pair of shoes, a Bible, and a pasteboard suitcase to transport their worldly goods. Many children left the city with no documentation of any kind. If parents were still alive and signed for their children to go on the orphan trains, they had to promise not to interfere with the arrangements made for the children's welfare. Family ties were usually broken and further contact discouraged, with the thought that the children would have a better chance of success if they weren't pining for what was lost to them. Children were placed out in almost every state.

Product details

  • File Size: 940 KB
  • Print Length: 223 pages
  • Publisher: C.A. Williams; 2 edition (August 2, 2016)
  • Publication Date: August 2, 2016
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01JMBK08O
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,771,602 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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