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In 1904, New York nuns brought forty Irish orphans to a remote Arizona mining camp, to be placed with Mexican Catholic families. Soon the town's Anglos, furious at this "interracial" transgression, formed a vigilante squad that kidnapped the children and nearly lynched the nuns and the local priest. The Catholic Church sued to get its wards back, but the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, ruled in favor of the vigilantes. Linda Gordon brilliantly recreates and dissects, the tangled intersection of family and racial values, in a gripping story that resonates with today's conflicts over the "best interests of the child."

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780674005358
ISBN-10: 067400535X
Format: Paperback
(235mm x 155mm x 28mm)
Pages: 432
Imprint: Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publish Date: 22-Jun-2001
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions

Reviews

US Kirkus Review » Microhistory at its best. Gordon (History/Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison) has long been a student of working-class and poor women, with a special interest in motherhood (Pitied But Not Entitled, 1994, traces the history of single mothers and welfare). Here she takes on some new challenges - narrative, the history of Spanish-speaking Americans, New Western history. Gordon began with great raw material: a gripping tale that sounds more like the plot of a TV mini-series than the subject of a university press book. In 1904, Catholic nuns in New York sent 40 Irish children on an "orphan train" to a small Arizona mining town, where they would be cared for by Catholic families - Mexican Catholic families. When the children arrived, the Anglo townsfolk were outraged by the idea that 40 white boys and girls were going to be placed with non-white families. Anglo women organized their men into a posse which kidnapped the children from the Mexican families. A trial followed, and the Arizona Territorial Supreme Court found in favor of the Anglos. Gordon, drawing on interviews, newspapers, and the court transcript, recreates the kidnapping and the ensuing courtroom drama in intoxicating detail. Along the way, Gordon cracks open a number of hot issues, from labor relations to women's roles. At the center is her exam/nation of the social construction of race; you won't find a more illuminating or nuanced discussion of the invention of whiteness than Gordon's. "The train ride," Gordon reminds us, "had transformed [the foundlings] from Irish to white." In early twentieth-century New York, Irish kids were no more "white" than Jewish or Italian children. But in Arizona, where the "other" was dark-skinned and spoke a language even more foreign to "white" ears than an Irish brogue, the children were suddenly as white as George Washington. Gordon has written the rare history book that readers won't be able to put down. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Linda Gordon

Linda Gordon is Professor of History at New York University. She is the author of the now classic history of birth control in America, Woman's Body, Woman's Right, and of Heroes of Their Own Lives: The Politics and History of Family Violence, winner of the Joan Kelly Prize for the best book in women's history.

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