Friday, September 03, 2010

Annie Gamwell and the Avon House

Just a few little words found, "Mrs. E. F. Gamwell, hobby horse low chair ", but what meaning there is there if we spend a contemplative moment. From those few words, and its sitz im leben (setting in life), we may feel some powerful emotions.

Google has begun a massive project scanning ancient periodicals, handbooks, city documents, and other public domain or out of copyright items. All of it is attached to powerful search engine algorithms that near-instantly pulls up primary sources for the eager historian or genealogist.

In an obscure book which we might never have found had it not been for the aggressive actions of Google's corporation, we read of a noble charitable cause: The Avon House of Cambridge, Mass.

We read, "The year which ended on the first of November has been generally prosperous for the Avon Home. Eighteen children have been admitted, and fourteen have been discharged, all of whom returned to the care of their relatives. A baby who was feeble and not well when admitted died in August after a few days stay. It is four years since a child has died at the Home, and considering the physical condition of many of the children when they come, the prevailing good health speaks well for the care given by the matron and her assistants and by our faithful physicians. The plan of placing children in private families, the cost of which has been met partly by the Home, has been continued with satisfactory results. This seems to be the only solution of the problem of deciding what to do with children who have grown too old to stay, and whose relatives are no better able to provide for them than when they were admitted.

"We shall at a later time give an account of what we hope to do in the way of opening the Avon Home building again as a Hospital for sick babies and children as soon as we cab make even a small beginning in caring for them. The Avon Home began as a small affair and has grown on the support that the public spirited people of Cambridge have given it to be a much larger affair."

Under an entry for November 1904, Mrs. E. F. Gamwell – undoubtedly Mrs. Edward F Gamwell - Annie Phillips Gamwell – donated these items. They were probably Phillips Gamwell's (b. 1898) items from younger days, as in 1904 he was then 6 years of age. In only 12 more years, Phillips would die. In 1916, Edward and Annie would separate.

Mrs. Gamwell, as many did, cared for the indigent children of Cambridge.

May we, too, take a moment and care.

Twenty-First Annual Report of Avon House, p.13.

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