Playing Card Orphans

Today I Learned… In 18th century Netherlands, when poverty and desperation forced women to abandon their infants at religious and secular institutions, some would leave a play card with a note, plea or promise written on the back. Playing cards were highly disposable and cheap, so it was often the only form of paper available to them.

These short messages were often heart-wrenching to read.

“If God has heard my prayers, Hans will not die. I have no more food.”

Sometimes, the card would be cut or torn in a distinctive manner, a sign that the mother would endeavor to return and claim the child using the matching fragment. If the card was whole, the child was surrendered for good.

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