Emma Quinn '20

Emma Quinn

Major: History and Theology
Bio: Emma Quinn grew up in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, the child of Irish Catholic immigrants. She was a research assistant with the Thomas More College Oral History Project and published an article in the Spring 2019 edition of the Fordham Undergraduate Research Journal. After graduation, she hopes to become a lawyer and help immigrants navigate the legal process of entering the United States.

Title of Research: Founding a New American at the New York Foundling Hospital
Mentor: Daniel Soyer
Abstract: In the second half of the twentieth century, Catholic immigrants arrived in huge numbers to New York City. Many immigrants, including children, faced extreme poverty and disenfranchisement, a fact that shocked many native-born Americans. In response, they formed charitable organizations to both aid these destitute children and convert them to Protestant, “American” citizens. One of the most infamous of these organizations was the Children’s Aid Society founded by Charles Loring Brace, which sent Catholic children out of New York to Protestant families, often without the open consent of their birth families.

New York Catholics were horrified by what they saw as outright kidnapping and indoctrination. In response, groups like the Sisters of Charity founded rival organizations to provide aid to Catholic children without forcing them to give up their faith. However, in many ways the operations of these Catholic organizations, including the New York Foundling Hospital, were remarkably similar to that of the Protestant organizations they were fighting against. My thesis project argues that while these Catholic organizations preserved the religious heritage of the children who were under its care, they simultaneously introduced these children to secular American values, creating a new generation of Catholic Americans.