Saturday, September 17, 2011

Atlanta Child Care Providers & the 3 Dead Babies: Annie Gobay & Emma Kitchen - 1905


FULL TEXT: Within a block of the Home for the Friendless, just a few feet from a large sign which proclaims than an infectious disease is in the vicinity, and with vines obscuring the porch, has been discovered a “baby farm.”

That this is a baby farm goes without argument. Facts indisputable and the statement of one of the owners makes it so beyond the shadow of a doubt. The “farm” is situated at 17 Corley avenue, between Highland avenue and Houston street. Running the “farm” are two women, a mother and her daughter, Mrs. Annie Gobay and Mrs. Emma Kitchen, both widows.

The place has been in existence over two years, but only lately have the police been aware of the fact. It is run in an open way, and the women who run seem perfectly conscientious, and apparently think their business a perfectly legitimate one.

~ Plan of Operation. ~

For $3 a week they agree to nurse, nourish and otherwise care for all the babies put in their care, regardless of age – they have to be infants – and the condition of their health.

Within the past three days three of the helpless little inmates have died, one from jaundice and the others from cholera infantum. A fourth one is in a dying condition at Grady hospital.

The women who run the “baby farm” say it is not unusual that their charges have died, and assert that all expired from natural causes. They say that May is always a bad month for babies, and that a large proportion of the babies put in their care are ill and in a hopeless condition when they are received.

They say that babies who are not admitted to the Home for the Friendless on account of having measles and like diseases are turned over to them by responsible parties, and they care for them.

~ Mrs. Gobay Does Not Talk. ~

Just how many babies have been placed there in the two years in which the farm has been in existence could not be learned, as Mrs. Gobay, who was interviewed, refused to say and would make no estimate other than stating that for many weeks not a single charge was received.

The board of health records were examined yesterday to ascertain the facts about the recent deaths at the “baby farm.” The infant of J. C. Johnson, whose address in unknown, died of jaundice there on May 23, after living exactly a month. The body was interred by Swift & Hall, undertakers, of Hunter street, and the certificate bears the name of Coroner Thompson. Mrs. Gobay says the infant was brought there by its father. Its mother having expired.

After an illness of three days, the infant of John May Langley died at the “farm” on May 22, one day before the previously mentioned one, after having lived exactly two months. H. M. Patterson was the undertaker, and Dr. W. A. Starnes signed the certificate. Mrs. Gobay says Dr. Starnes brought the child there, and that he has recommended the “farm” very highly.

~ “Farm” a Tenement House. ~

The “farm” is a two-room tenement-appearing house, built like the houses in nearly all poor districts of large cities. It is built very low, only a foot or two from the ground, and the walls are bare and cannot well protect the inmates from cold winds or the hot rays of the sun.

To a Constitution reporter yesterday afternoon. Mrs. Gobay, who is a woman at least 70 years old, bent with age, gave the history of the “farm” since its inception over two years ago.

“My daughter, Mrs. Kitchens,” she said, “is working today at the Home for the Friendless. Her husband, W. W. Kitchens, was an engineer on the Seaboard Air Line railway, and was well known in the railway world.

“Mrs. Kitchen has three children, the oldest of whom is a daughter, aged 17 years. Just before the death of Mr. Kitchens, about two years ago, a child was born to the couple.”

“About the same time an infant was brought to the Home for the Friendless to be cared for. I forget who it was. The mother had died and the father was ill. The lady who ran the home said the infant could not be cared for by the home, and suggested that my daughter care for it, as it, was in need of milk.”

“My daughter inquired of her husband whether to accept the suggestion, and he told her to. Consequently, she took the infant and for several weeks nourished it and then turned it over to the father.

“Since then, nearly every time the home could not accept an infant, it was turned over to my daughter, and she took it, charging $3 week for the work. I have no idea how many babies we have had, but we have always taken the best care of them possible.

“While I have helped my daughter, I really am not directly connected with the business, as I let my cow support me in [illegible] and we won’t take the babies unless we feel sure of the $3 a week.

“You people act as if there were something wrong about the business. Of course, children die here, as they die everywhere. This is a specially bad month.”

[“Little Tots Die At Baby Farm – Three Deaths in Last Few Days at Tenement at 17 Charley St. – Farm Is Run on Strict Business Basis – Mrs. Gobay States That May Is a Bad Month for Babies – Doctors Approve It.” The Atlanta Constitution (Ga.), May 28, 1905, p. 2]

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For more cases of “Baby Farmers,” professional child care providers who murdered children see The Forgotten Serial Killers.

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