World’s Strangest

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Live "Practice Babies" for "Practice Mothers"

Cornell and other universities once incorporated live babies into their undergraduate teaching programs.

Once upon a time, infants were quietly removed from orphanages and delivered to the home economics programs at elite U.S. colleges, where young women were eager to learn the science of mothering. These infants became “practice babies,” living in “practice apartments,” where a gaggle of young “practice mothers” took turns caring for them…

Cornell’s program ran from 1919 to 1969 (which strikes me as incomprehensibly recent). At Cornell, eight female students at a time spent a full semester living in a fully-kitted out practice apartment. The women were there to learn the entire spectrum of homemaking skills…

Further details and a discussion of the “scientific method” of raising babies is at the PLoS Wonderland link, where it is noted that when the babies were returned to the orphanages after several years as teaching tools, they were in great demand by adoptive mothers.


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January 9th, 2011

Stranger to the World


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