Swiss history, Swiss women, divorce, displaced children
From early in the nineteenth century until the 1950s, tens of thousands of Swiss children were taken from their homes and placed with foster families or sold at auction. The mothers of the outplaced children were usually poor and divorced; some were alleged to be prostitutes. One of these mothers was the author’s great-grandmother, Dorothea Hürlimann. In 1895, because she was divorced and managed a tobacco store in Geneva’s red-light district, her three children were sent to live with foster families. The middle child, Dora, was four years old when she was placed with a family in Winterthur and began her life as a servant. In 1914, Dora immigrated to the United States, married a German immigrant, and, in 1921, gave birth to the author’s mother, Hazel Fischer. For over a century, Dorothea Hürlimann’s descendants, including the author’s grandmother and her Swiss relatives, were silent about why the children were outplaced with foster families and how the outplacements affected the mother and her children.
"Women, Divorce, Tobacco, and Outplacements of Children: Uncovering Family Secrets in Switzerland,"
Swiss American Historical Society Review: Vol. 59:
2, Article 6.
Available at: https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/sahs_review/vol59/iss2/6