Breaking the Social Stereotypes of the 19th Century French Poor

Conditions Within the Hospice

Eponine Home

The Hospice
The Care
The Wetnurse
The Government

Charity Home
The Church
Frederic Ozanam
Government Aid
Women in Need

Women and Poverty
Living Conditions
Inside the Family
Making Ends   Meet


The Condition of the Hospices: The physical environment was cold, dirty, and overcrowded. The conditions within the hospices were not good. The authorities for the most part were more concerned with finance than the welfare of the children. For example, in 1830 in St. Vincent-de-Paul, there were three sister and eleven nurse's aids in the nursery for anywhere between eighty and one hundred and fifty infants. In theory, each wet nurse cared only for one newborn. However due to the lack of wet nurse, there were usually four or five newborns to each wet nurse while in the hospice. This was one of the reasons ,many of the babies did not receive breast milk at all or on a regular basis. The other reasons included the fear that the majority of the infants carried syphilis. To deal with this problem, the authorities along with doctors developed a means of artificially feeding them. This consisted of cows and goats milk. However, the milk often sat out in the open with no lid for days on end; thus obtaining a large amount of germ and bacteria. Dr. Hutinel described this after a visit to a hospice as, " contained in large jars, exposed to all dust, rested in an office situated in the center of the rooms, where from morning to night, it was contaminated by germs that dry sweeping would raise up several times a day" ( Fuchs 137). Due to the unsanitary conditions, one half of the infants died in the hospice before their first year. In short, "the best-run foundling houses were giant warehouses where infants suffered and died in the most miserable circumstances" (DuBay).

Hygiene: Since there were very few workers in the hospice, the personal hygiene of the infants and older children was poor. Often the laundry was not done frequently, this included the diapers and bedding. Often children would rewear dried dirty diapers, and stay in the same bedding that had been soiled for days on end. This lead to the rapid spread of fatal illnesses and diseases.

Attention: The lack of attention given to the children was partly in effect because of the high child adult ratio. However, it also must be remembered that the knowledge on the importance of physical contact and stimulation at a young age was not known. The only times children were generally handled while in the hospice was when being transferred, inspected, or feed (Fuchs 180).

Created by Devon Hill