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Children for Sale, 1948 (rarehistoricalphotos.com)
129 points by marvindanig 12 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 72 comments





Here is a comment from the article (not me)

Cheri Hofstater JULY 20, 2018 Unfortunately I am the granddaughter of this women. My mother, (Lana) was lucky enough to get sent to live with her grandmother on a farm in Wisconsin. At the age of 12 or 13 I believe, was when her mother came back for her. I remember my mom telling the story like it was yesterday. Her mother loved to drink and play bingo, but with four new children now she found it difficult to maintain her social life, so when my mother was old enough Lucille went and got her for the sole purpose of babysitting. At least that's my mother take on the situation. With no place else to go, my mother stuck around and eventually married and had 7 children. Me, I'm right in the middle. I don't remember much about my grandmother except that she was a strong and demanding women, and I feared her. I remember my half aunt's who were always wonderful to me and my siblings. My mother eventually left her abusive and alcoholic husband and we moved away, never to see them again. Until after my mom died that is. We reconnected, breifly, with some of my mother's half sisters and there view of the situation is totally different. Because of that we never really talked about the relationship between my mother and grandmother, we were just glad to have the time together. I suppose being raised by your mother and being given away by your mother would have a tremendous impact on your opinion and thoughts about your life and the people in it. My mother never seemed bitter or angry at her, just afraid, of being hurt, I suppose. I thank God everyday for giving my mom the strength to endure her life, as lonely as it was. I guess you could say the pain, and or love, we receive throughout our lives doesn't have to dictate who we will become. My mom was proof of that. Thanks for listening. Respectfully, A tender soul.


> I suppose being raised by your mother and being given away by your mother would have a tremendous impact on your opinion

Yeah, that seems pretty clear. Although I don't see why the impact should extend to your relationship with other random people.

My grandfather was given away by his mother a little before the Great Depression, the theory being that she couldn't afford to keep him. (The other two children were kept.) He understandably bore a grudge -- he never spoke about her, and when she tried once, a long time later, to reestablish contact, he refused.

But the only obvious candidate for a lasting impact on his relationships with people other than her was his habit of assuring us "Remember -- your (grand)father always loves you."


Being abandoned is a primeval fear of every child. Actually being abandoned has a tremendous negative and traumatic effect on a child.

Even not actual "abandonment", but emotional abandonment is the main culprint for borderline personality dissorder. It will impact a person's emotional stability and wellbeing, the way he is attracted to other people, his self esteem and so on.


BPD probably has a substantial genetic basis, although it's not implausible that BPD-leaning parents are more likely to abandon or abuse their children. (Not guaranteed, just more likely!)

Mental illnesses of all kinds, like virtually everything, are heritable. Of course, environment can play into heritability, but it's like the IQ debate... full of Culture War and the science of "why the brain does X thing" is unsettled.


BPD probably does have a strong genetic substrate as well since 25% of people diagnosed with BPD also have ADHD, at least that's what the psychiatrist that diagnosed me with BPD told me when she handed me questionaires for ADHD.

I've researched a lot about BPD therapies and the most promising one -- Schema Therapy -- models heavily BPD as being rooted in abandonment issues in childhood -- and everything I've read rang like hitting a nail on it's head, at least in my case.


> Although I don't see why the impact should extend to your relationship with other random people.

Because human brains aren't wholly rational :) Based on what people say about their reactions, experiencing a formative abandonment can impact your ability to trust others for the rest of your life.

Interestingly, people also say this about being cheated on in romantic relationships.


> > I suppose being raised by your mother and being given away by your mother would have a tremendous impact on your opinion

> Yeah, that seems pretty clear. Although I don't see why the impact should extend to your relationship with other random people.

People aren't robots with perfect control over themselves.



This story is so heartbreaking. I expected to see an old restored photo from the distant past, and being sold by a slaver not a parent.

Sadly, this plays out today in many countries with parents or grandparents selling children into sex slavery, with motives ranging from pure evil to (still terrible) justifcstion of sacrificing one child so that the others can be fed.



mruts 12 days ago [flagged]

I mean, this is just adoption essentially.

Would it be more or less heart-breaking if they all starved homeless on the street instead?


> Would it be more or less heart-breaking if they all starved homeless on the street instead?

Did you read the article?

> They were often chained up in a barn and forced to work long hours in the field. Milton remembers being called a “slave” by his new father figure, a label he accepted at the time because he didn’t understand what it meant.

> RaeAnn left home at 17, shortly after undergoing a brutally traumatic situation. As a young teen she was kidnapped and raped, which resulted in a pregnancy. She was sent away to a home for pregnant girls, and had her baby adopted when she returned.

I think plenty would take homelessness over slavery. Add in the physical and sexual abuse that's probably commonplace in "hey I went out and bought a kid" scenarios, too.


It is "just adoption" if the kid is lucky. Otherwise it is horror story.

Edit: Also it was not done for the good of the kids, but for the good of the parents. Which puts it into different situation.


No, as the story says, it's not just adoption essentially.

Over history, it seems like people disagree on the monetary value of children. Sometimes people get paid for their children, and sometimes they have to pay.

Also the standard deviation of prices (in 19th century London and current day Russia) is quite high. My wife’s sister is a professor who studies human trafficking and has quite a bit of data on this sort of thing.

One unsurprising trend is that girls are significantly more value than boys: they can potential do housework, cause less problems, and their sexual access can be monetized.


I wonder how much of a role culture plays in this as opposed to economics. We say that the reason kids worked in factories and were sold was due to economic hardship, but most people wouldn't find that acceptable nowadays even when they are going through economic hardship. I guess the reason why we care less about the economic aspect nowadays is that we have enough social services that will at least minimally take care of the kids if necessary.

Actually not so long ago countries like Sri Lanka and Colombia made a lot of money providing "orphans" to couples who wanted children in Europe. Caused quite the scandal.

I would like to see that data. Some nations has even laws where only women can be human traffic victims, which likely has an impact on human traffickers. I could easily imagine that the price they demand is thus higher for girls and women, which then get interpreted as higher value by researchers.

The dataset she assembled was in Russia, over 100 years or so.

That would be during the first world war then, during a time where they lost about 2 million men to the war and had forced a total of 12 million men into the military.

Would be interesting to know in that context why girls would be valued higher then boys.


Grand Daughter comment in comments section complete the story... (If she really was her grand daughter).

Thank you for pointing this out. Moving indeed, in particular how this pain is passed on to further generations.

Every so often on HN someone recommends the book "the body keeps the score" by dr. Bessel van der Kolk. Im a fan, so I'll do that here.

A chunk of the book talks about intergenerational transmission of trauma. The rest of it is a fascinating insight into the mind-body connection. It's Thorough and well worth the read.


Indeed. You would think that younger generations would learn from the mistakes of their parents, but far too often they end up perpetuating those mistakes in one form or another.

Poe's law

The article mentions horrific abuse of 2 of the children including being tied up in chains and forced to work and the rape and abuse of the other leading to an unwanted pregnancy an being sent to a home for pregnant girls. And one of the kids becoming violent and sent to prison.

This is clearly not the road to a civilized society. History shows all cultures and religion dominated by stable societies and family structures going back thousands of years, and while things like famines, war, epidemics, slavery and others led to breakdown, desperation and widespread suffering they cannot be passed as 'normal' in any age or gloss over abnormal human behavior.


That's a horrific story. The historical nature of the photograph might soften the impact a bit but there is plenty of nastiness going on today, even if a sign like that today would be unthinkable.

Just heartbreaking looking at those kids faces. No child deserves that.

My step-grandfather grew up in a very poor part of south Germany. He was sold by his parents at 7 years to herd sheep. That must've been ~ 1920. During WW2 he fought in Stalingrad and survived a Russian POW camp with maybe 10% survival rate. He lived to become 98 years old. With half his limbs and organs missing. A very hard life, but he was one of the happiest people I knew.

When your life improves that dramatically it's hard not to be positive.

Just seeing the headline "Children for Sale" drove me into a panic. I could never imagine selling my children. Perhaps if I was in distress I would give them to someone willing to do some form of open adoption, and only until my personal situation recovered.

The whole situation was formidably cruel.


> The whole situation was formidably cruel.

This is the natural state of the world. The fact that it's so abhorrent to us now is a testament to how far we've managed to come.


That's not the natural state of the world, neither for humans nor for most mammals. Such a situation is fundamentally, genetically, abnormal.

I certainly agree that voluntarily and intentionally having children, raising them to age 5 then selling them is not a normal state of affairs.

But if you interpret the "natural state of the world" to include loving parents, but not decent medical or agricultural technology, life can be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" in spite of parents' love. Or even "formidably cruel".


The world is what we make of it. There is the shadow and there is the light. Still I believe our natural state is that of love, before all concepts of anything that is all there is.

Our natural state might be love in a world of material abundance. Once you make resources scarce, humans are vicious.

Well, we can look at evolution on other animals to understand where we came from at what the “natural” state of the world. And the answer is clear: the natural state of the world is suffering, sex, and death.

I’m not sure how you could ever think that love is somehow the a priori concept of the world. Do single-celled organisms “love”? What about insects?

The answer is no, and evolution tells us what this cruel world is all about: propogation of genes through sex. We, as beings, are irrelevent: just hosts for a game that is being played at a different level.


Ridiculous. If the natural state of the world is "suffering, sex, and death," it's also joy, sex and birth. Sex is at least value neutral -- if you are going to sandwich it between suffering and death I may as well put it between joy and birth -- which are real experiences. Animals seem to experience joy, to play, etc.

Animals also take care of their young, they often mourn those who died.

Plus, your incredulity at the thought of "love" between single-celled organisms is without basis. Love is a subjective state which we can only infer. We (well, some of us, not you I guess) think it's real because we've felt it at a level to which to describe it as not real would do violence to our conception of real/unreal.

And then we infer that it's felt in other organisms around us based on their actions.

Now, a single-celled organism really doesn't have a great range of "actions/behaviors" it can show us. Therefore we don't get to see it. This says nothing about whether it's experienced or not.


>Animals also take care of their young, they often mourn those who died

Animals also kill their young on purpose, including people.

Do your cells in your eyes and in your butt love each other? If so, you have a pretty flexible definition of love.

Of course love is a thing, but is a much more recent phenomenon than pain. This is why it's much easier to feel pain, that in it is to feel love.

Humans and elements have a "S-shaped" function in which they rather avoid pain than feel pleasure. Would you rather feel a lot of joy for an hour or not be tortured for an hour? Most choose the latter: the stick is more powerful than the carrot.

I think it's a little disingenuous to that animals feel "love." Neurochemically, it's a little unclear as to what the feeling of love even is. Pain, on the other hand, is quite clear.

Therefore, we can reasonably conclude that pain has been more of driving factor of evolution than love. And then in it also follows that pain has been more prevalent than love in the history of the world.


There are subjective and unknowable states. The whole world is not inside your head. By asserting that the cells in my butt can't possibly love each other, you've made a pretty lifeless machine psychology that I don't have to accept, happily. You can't even prove your idea -- I would like you to be aware you are making a faith-based argument. Anyway, cheers. :)

>> Animals also take care of their young, they often mourn those who died.

Many animals also eat their young. Taking care of their young is just as ingrained in their evolved behavior as eating them.

Otherwise, I agreed with the rest of your post. The whole "do <x> organism 'love'" concept is a bit of a mind bender as usual.


>> We, as beings, are irrelevent: just hosts for a game that is being played at a different level.

Careful there, you'll bring out a whole cadre of people dragging you over the coals with that sort of opinion. They'll call you "godless" or something else, which translates to "I can't debate your opinion, so neener-neener".


But people have been selling children forever. Maybe you have less children than the average of people in the past?

Do you think you would be more likely to sell your children if you had 8+? Or if you were dirt poor? Homeless? Addicted to drugs? Starving? On your death bed?

Bringing another being into this meatgrinder of a world is the cruelest act in itself. Everything else is just a matter of degree.


> Bringing another being into this meatgrinder of a world is the cruelest act in itself.

My world view is grim, but not as pessimistic as yours. May I recommend you something?

Have you seen the movie Arrival? The protagonist makes a decision near the end of the movie that is as much in contrast of your statement as it can be. I was (and still am) unbelievably moved by that revelation and think about it to this very day.


> But people have been selling children forever

They didn't have birth control.

I grew up in a world where my parents used it, I use it, and my grandmother guilt tripped my grandfather forever for not telling her about it until after they had three kids.

Forever, meaning she still brought up the issue when I introduced my wife to them.


How did she afford the professional sign painting?

It doesn't look particularly professional to me. Anyone with a paintbrush, some black paint, and fairly decent handwriting could make it.

I read this awhile back, but it helps explain your question https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/7kiu0r/how_w...

From your reference:

> (If your question is more of a technical one: These signs weren't all individually hand-lettered. A professional lettering artist makes one copy, then the artwork is photographed and turned into a plate for silkscreening or lithography.)

Holy crap, was this so common they had it made produced like the baby on board signs? :(


I'm guessing whoever made the sign arranged 4, CHILDREN, FOR, SALE words into the horrid sentence

>>Within two years all of the children pictures,

Is there a typo there? Should it have been - Within two years all of the children in the pictures


Probably a typo, meant to be "all of the children pictured".

Yes. Your correction is better than mine. Thank you!

I have wondered if drive for mothering is powered by built-in gene programming. If that was the case, I'd say there was possibly a mutation in this case.

There are probably multiple reproductive strategies out there in the population at large. Heck, we each probably have multiple strategies encoded in our genes that get activated depending on what kind of opportunities and obstacles we find in our environments.

Interestingly, this particular lady supposedly had another 3 children after selling her first 5. If her behavior was a result of genetics, those genes were pretty successful.


Successful enough to maintain some base rate in the population, but not more successful than more typical, nurturing strategies.

To be pedantic, the success of this strategy is probably frequency dependent (which is common, see the classic hawks vs. doves game theory literature). That is, it is more successful the rarer it is, but less successful the more common it becomes (because the people buying your children are more likely to be callous and treat them as slaves, rather than as adopted children), eventually settling on some stable ratio in the population.

Mothering is about propogation of 50% of your genes. Your interests aren’t fully aligned. In many situations, it makes sense to kill or get rid of children, in order to improve the chances of future offspring.

Moreover, if the child is a girl, their reproductive skew is very low: it’s highly unlikely she will produce more than 15 offspring in her entire life. So it might make sense to sell your girls, and keep your boys.

Why, you might ask? Because in an ideal world, each boy could potentially have thousands of children.

This, of course, is unlikely but we can look at history to just see how reproductively successful a man can be. Genghis Khan in all likelyhood had thousands of children.


I can't find the numbers right now, but if the child is a girl the probability of her having children at all are substantially higher than for a boy. (Of course, the boy can have more, but historically many didn't have any.)

Which is why it makes sense to spend more resources on boys than girls. Girls are less sensitive to resources in regards to reproduction.

For every extra calorie given to a boy vs a girl, the amount that it will increase the number of offspring he/she will have is more for the boy.

Of course, like you were saying, many more men than women will not be able to reproduce at all. This why we have 50/50 sex ratios. The girls mitigate or hedge the risk from boys.


You are missing the point here, may be. Man could not be reproductively successful without women. If a boy has thousands of children, there needs to be corresponding women who can carry them.

Of course you need one mother per dad. But I’m talking about the skew of the probability density function of the distribution. If I’m a sucessful man I can get more than my “fair share” of reproductive access.

You assume a uniform distribution of children per dad.

There are several birds and monkeys that try to give their children/eggs away.The bird places their eggs in another nest and then are feed by the host of that nest. I think that is an evolutionary advantage, the genes survive and the fathers have more time to feed themselves and have more eggs.

As humans we kind of do a similar thing, kindergartens, schools(other people that we don't know) rise our children and spend more time with them than us as parents.

As many times and many people in HN, I'll recommend this book: The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins


How/why is this even legal?

It's probably not, but that doesn't stop it.

Initially, I thought it said "Chicken for Sale" and I was alright with that.

[flagged]


Could you please stop posting unsubstantive comments to Hacker News?

I thought this photo was hilarious until I realized it was serious.

Please don't post unsubstantive comments here.

Is this illegal today?



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