History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

14 March 2014

Women at Work: Philanthropy & the London Foundling Hospital

I recently had the privilege of serving as the editor and publisher of Scribbling Women & the Real-Life Romance Heroes Who Love Them, a Chocolate for a Woman’s Soul styled anthology of romance authors’ true love stories to benefit styled Win (Women in Need). As resident History Hoyden and Scribbling Women contributor, Leslie Carroll, has done such a smashing job of reporting on the project for HH, I’ll stop there. :)

 I must have had philanthropy on the brain. At the same time Scribbling Women was taking shape, I was also finishing Claimed By The Rogue (Samhain, March 4, 2014), my first Regency-set single title historical since 2000 and one which features a philanthropist as the heroine.

It is 1820. Captain Robert Bellamy is newly returned to London after six years’ service with the East India Company in India and the Orient. Believing him to have been drowned at sea, his fiancée, Lady Phoebe Tremont, has struggled to pick up the proverbial pieces and build a new life. Only for Lady Phoebe, that fresh start doesn’t mean marriage, at least not in the main.

Instead, Phoebe has done something terribly shocking and virtually unheard of, certainly for a peer’s daughter.

She has gotten herself a job.

Admittedly the position is a volunteer one, so no “filthy lucre” is exchanged, but otherwise Phoebe’s tenure as a school mistress at The London Foundling Hospital (hospital in the sense of dispensing “hospitality” to orphaned and surrendered children) is very much a full-time job. When Robert barges in on her class, he finds her not stitching her sampler or flipping through the fashion plates in Ackermann's Repository as he might expect but instead in the midst of a scientific demonstration of Newton’s postulate, “Nature abhors a vacuum” complete with heated beaker and boiled egg.

Robert soon discerns that working his way back into Phoebe’s good graces—and bed—is going to be work indeed as well as require piles of patience. (Standing about looking swoon-worthy isn’t going to cut it, not anymore). For one hundred pounds a day paid as a donation to the Hospital, he purchases the right to become Phoebe’s shadow. Whether it’s a picnic luncheon on the hospital lawn chaperoned by Phoebe’s foundlings, an art auction at Almack’s (the intrepid Phoebe persuades the patronesses to open their assembly rooms on other than a Wednesday night) or tracking down a student’s oyster mongering mother at Billingsgate Market, he is wholly committed to carving out a place for himself in Phoebe’s new life.

Many of the pivotal scenes in Claimed are set in the Foundling Hospital, the place of Phoebe’s employ. Chartered in 1739 by George II for the “maintenance and education of exposed and deserted young children,” the London Foundling Hospital received its first orphans in 1741. From 1742 through the 1920’s, the institution was headquartered in a handsome red brick and stone-faced orphanage building in Bloomsbury. (The structure was razed in 1926 when the Hospital relocated to the countryside. Today the site, now Coram’s Fields, is occupied by a children’s play park and youth center).

In its early years, hospital policy governing admissions varied depending upon the degree to which Parliamentary funds were received. Initially only infants of up to twelve months of age were accepted. The child had to be deemed healthy and the mother unwed. Additionally, the child must be the fruit of the mother’s “first fall,” the belief being that surrendering her child would enable her to return to decency and make a fresh start.

From its onset, the Hospital attracted the patronage of the glitterati of the art world, notably William Hogarth, one of the first governors. Hogarth donated several paintings to the Foundation including his handsome portrait of its founder, Captain Coram, today displayed in the Foundling Hospital Museum’s permanent collection. Works by other great eighteenth century artists including Thomas Gainsborough and Sir Joshua Reynolds followed, festooning the walls of the elaborate Rococo-styled Governor’s Court Room, also the first art gallery open to the public.

Would a peer’s daughter have served as a school mistress to orphans? Admittedly the chances are slim. While governesses often found themselves caught in limbo between genteel society and servitude, school mistresses enjoyed an only slightly better reputation than nurses, whom public opinion generally cast as drunken slatterns. Still there have always been, and always will be, philanthropy-focused females a step (or many steps) ahead of their time. Florence Nightingale, Clara Barton, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, happily history’s list goes on—and on.

What are some of your favorite “jobs” for historical romance heroines?

Thanks so much to Leslie and the other History Hoydens for having me!

Hope Tarr is the author of twenty-five historical and contemporary romances, including Claimed by the Rogue, and a cofounder of Lady Jane’s Salon, NYC’s first and only monthly romance fiction reading series. Find her online at www.HopeTarr.com, www.Facebook.com/HopeC.Tarr and on Twitter @HopeTarr.


Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

Welcome, Hope! We're so delighted you're here. And equally delighted that you're sharing the news about your latest release! Congratulations!

I love stories that color outside the lines and feature historical heroines who defy convention.

Some of my own novels have featured real-life heroines who marched to the beat of their own drum (Emma, Lady Hamilton, and Mary Robinson -- both of whom, admittedly added "courtesan" to their resume in addition to their accomplishments on the stage, or in Mary Robinson's case, as as multipublished writer/poet, editor, and early feminist).

My colleague Christine Trent is making a career out of writing middle-class heroines with fascinating professions (including a dollmaker, a waxworker, an undertaker, and a wigmaker).

11:55 AM  
Blogger Hope Tarr said...

Hi Leslie!

Thanks again for having me here and I admit: I am partial to heroes and heroines with "jobs." Christine's heroines sound very intriguing, esp the undertaker. I have long wanted to write a contemporary where the heroine was a mortuary cosmetologist -- there was a Rikki Lake movie back in the 80's to that effect and it caught my fancy big time.

And I LOVE me a good fallen woman heroine. So far I've written just one (in My Lord Jack), a "former" courtesan fleeing France and La Terreur for the fresh air and more or less gore-free fields of Scotland. ;)

And I am about to write another! CLAIMED BY THE ROGUE commences a trilogy and book #3 will feature Lady Phoebe's scapegrace brother, Reggie and a certain mantua maker-cum-demirep. Very excited!

5:46 PM  

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