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The Public and Private Care of Infants (1912)

A young widow with two babies faces some very difficult decisions in caring for them.




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Credited cast:
Bliss Milford ...
The Widow


The hardest of all work for a widowed mother, who has to make her own living, is to care for her children while doing her work. What mistress of a home would want a cook or maid with her young infant around, the mother having to divide her time with her young and her work? Yet when the mother has to work, what is she to do with her young when she is so handicapped? She should board her baby with someone who is capable of caring for and feeding another child than her own. Individual attention is what the infant needs. In this picture the mother has twins, one she boards with a foster mother and the other is put into an institution because the foster mother will take only one. The mother of the twins is compelled to do this because she cannot get work so handicapped. The work of the care of infants in an institution is shown and the only fault to be found is that the individual attention that an infant must have is lacking, owing to the fact that a nurse in an asylum often has as many ... Written by Moving Picture World synopsis

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Short | Drama





Release Date:

16 December 1912 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


A copy of this film survives at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. See more »


Featured in Edison: The Invention of the Movies (2005) See more »

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User Reviews

Effective As Social Commentary
29 September 2005 | by See all my reviews

This Edison Company drama provides effective social commentary on issues that still have some relevance even now. It is filmed in a straightforward fashion similar to the style used in many other short dramas of the 1910s, but for Edison it is slightly atypical in its willingness to tackle a sensitive issue. While it is extremely careful not to assign blame to any particular persons or group, it convincingly depicts some social ills that call out for attention.

The movie tells a simple story about a young widow with two babies, using it as a vehicle to highlight the kinds of childcare concerns faced by working families. It starts with the widow, unable to find a job that would allow her to care for her children at home, giving one baby to a woman who takes the baby into her own home to care for it, and giving the other baby to an orphanage (which is called an 'asylum' in the inter-titles). The rest of the movie then follows what happens to the mother and to the two children who are being raised in such different situations.

Much of the running time is used simply to document the kinds of chronic problems that characterize the public institutions that care for infants, and some of the scenes movingly illustrate the need for reform. The movie deliberately portrays the individuals who work in the institution in a positive light, instead pointing the blame at the lack of proper funding and the lack of sufficient staff to give the children the care that they really need. The implicit message comes across clearly.

Even in its own time, this isn't a movie that would have been watched for entertainment. The story itself is somewhat predictable, and the technique is merely solid. It was really made for just one purpose, and in that purpose it succeeds well enough.

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