Kate Manning's "My Notorious Life" is a novel about Axie Muldoon, a New York City street girl of the 1850's, who fights her way out of poverty by becoming the era's most successful—and controversial—midwife. The story is loosely based on the life of a real woman, Ann Lohman, a scandalous figure from the headlines of the 1800s. Axie also crosses paths with other historical figures, including the Reverend Charles Loring Brace, and the famous charity he founded—the Children's Aid Society.You can learn more about Kate Manning's work at katemanningauthor.com
In New York City of the 19th century, 30,000 homeless children lived on the streets. Writing a novel about the poverty of that era, about how attitudes toward women and children changed in the mid-1800s, I walked the streets of the city and saw modern poverty all around: hunger and homelessness, the effects of mental illness and drug addiction. But I also saw the effects of 19th Century social workers' extraordinary vision-- of a better future for children--everywhere in action. Today, there are still about 25,000 homeless kids in New York, but much has changed: there are laws on the books that aim to protect at-risk children, and many charitable programs, some of them started back in the 1800s, try to address needs still unmet. Their efforts are mostly dependent on the kindness of strangers. Check out these four charities to see how you can help this holiday season.
The Children's Aid Society
Charles Loring Brace founded the CAS in 1853, as an outgrowth of the Orphan Train Movement, a project which took 150,000 homeless children off the streets of New York, and sent them to homes out West. Today, the CAS still serves the city's kids, providing adoption and shelter services, summer camps, after-school programs, food and clothing assistance, health services, pregancy prevention, legal advocacy and many other services that help children in need and at risk.
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Today's foster care system is another outgrowth of Charles Loring Brace's charitable impulse. The law now sees to it that at-risk children be placed—temporarily, sometimes--with families other than their own. A related volunteer program, Foster Pride, provides free arts classes, scholarships, and internships to New York City children and teens in foster care. Mentoring and job-preparedness programs run by Foster Pride help teenagers develop the skills they need to live independently as they age out of the foster care system.
The New York Food Bank
Today, according to Feedingamerica.org, 22% of New York's children are designated as "food insecure," a euphemism for hungry. These kids lack access to regular meals. Year-round, New York Food banks accept donations of canned goods and non-perishable items, but are also in need of cash donations to help prepare hot meals. The food bank runs a student-led food drive through December. Learn more here.
The Andrew Glover Youth Program
Charles Loring Brace wrote a book called "The Dangerous Classes of New York," illustrating how early intervention in the lives of poor children was the best preventive to crime. Today, the Andrew Glover Youth Program helps young offenders -- or other at-risk kids—referred by courts or the community—to stay on the good side of the law. At two youth centers in the city, kids are enrolled in educational, job-readiness, and recreational programs. The Glover Program addresses problems that get kids into trouble-- family issues, a drug habit, alcohol abuse, or illiteracy, and help kids find counseling, job training, tutoring, or an outlet like art classes. Sometimes, they just need a place to live, food, and clothing.
Kate Manning's novel My Notorious Life, was published in September 2013 by Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, a CBS company. "O" the Oprah magazine, called it "a daring page-turner," and Real Simple wrote that My Notorious Life is an "intriguing, thought-provoking work...a testament to the strength of the human spirit." You can read an excerpt of the book on SimonandSchuster.com!
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