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Divine Providence

The Puritan minister and scholar, Cotton Mather, was once heard to explain that his daughter being badly burned in a fire was a punishment for his own sin. Expanding on this example, it would seem that relying on Divine Providence, the mercurial protector of children, seemed to preclude colonial parents from paying attention to their children’s health and safety needs.2 Parents often gave themselves up to the belief that their children would be taken away from them for the benefit of god.

To further reflect this deference to God in matters of a child’s life and death, Louisa Park in 1801 exclaimed, after the death of her beloved infant son, “Yet I do not wish thee back again, my lovely innocent. No—I will bless my God who has taken thee to Himself before though couldst offend him, and has saved thee from a life of sickness, sorrow, and woe, although it has been at the expense of my health and happiness.” It is as though parents comforted themselves with the idea that children were better off dead and in heaven.3

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