From Europe Viewed Through American Spectacles by Charles C. Fulton. Text written in 1873.
The official returns of the hospitals of Paris show that of the fifty-five thousand of births in the city during the past year, fifteen thousand three hundred and sixty-six were illegitimate. The proportion of illegitimates to the number of inhabitants is not quite up to that of Vienna, which has ten thousand for one million inhabitants, whilst the population of Paris is nearly two millions. In various parts of Paris , boxes called tours are established, each of which revolvers upon a pivot, and, on a bell being rung, is turned around by the person inside to receive the child that may have been deposited in it without attempting to ascertain who the parents are.
The child is taken to a hospital and cared for, and as soon as a nurse from the country may be procured, it is given into her charge. Nurses from the country, of good character, are always applying for these infants. The nurses are paid by the city from four francs to eight francs per month, according to the age of the child, care being taken to assign the children to nurses living as far as possible from their birth-places. After the second year, the nurse may give the child up, when, if no other nurse can be found for it, it is transferred to the Orphan Department. Sometimes the nurses become so attached to the children that they retain them. The number of children thus placed out in the country to nurse is about four thousand annually. The abolition, in some of the departments, of this humane custom of receiving these little waifs and asking no questions has caused infanticide to become very frequent. As for infanticide before birth, the number is said to have doubled and trebled in some districts, and to have risen to four and five times the usual amount in others. The average number of foundlings maintained at the Paris Hospital is four thousand four hundred. At the age of twelve the boys are bound apprentice to some trade at the expense of the city. A portion of one hundred and forty-eight francs is awarded by the city to female foundlings when they marry, provided their conduct has been unexceptionable throughout.
The Hospice des Enfants Assistés founded in 1640 by St. Vincent of Paul is for the reception of foundlings. For a child to be received at this hospital, however, it is necessary that a certificate of abandonment be produced, signed by a Commissary of Police. The Commissary is bound to admonish the mother or party abandoning the child and to procure for them assistance from the hospital fund in case of their consenting to retain and support the child. Every encouragement is thus given to those who relinquish the idea of abandoning their offspring and consent to support them at home. Of the children received at this hospital, those that are healthy are put out in the country to nurse, whilst those that are sickly are retained at the hospital until they die or recover. The number of beds in this hospital is about six hundred. And the children annually sent from it to the country are about four thousand three hundred. The children are first placed in a general reception room, called La Crêche, where they are visited every morning by the physicians assigned to the different infirmaries. In each of these infirmaries, as well as in La Crêche, cradles are placed around the walls in rows, and several nurses are constantly employed in attending to them. An inclined bed is placed in front of the fire, on which the children who require it are laid, and chairs are ranged in a warm corner, in which those of sufficient age and strength sit part of the day. Everything is admirably conducted, and to all outward appearances they are kindly and humanely cared for.