Tonic for Body or Soul: Fresh Air for Poor Children in Progressive Era New York City
Journal of Urban History
The Fresh Air Fund and the Floating Hospital were two charities that launched in Gilded Age New York City and flourished during the Progressive Era. Part of the fresh air charity movement, both organizations argued that impoverished children living in crowded tenement districts needed fresher air. But these reformers had strikingly different notions of what fresh air was and where to find it. The Floating Hospital cast fresh air as medicine that children could breathe in the city’s harbor, but urban air could never be fresh to the Fresh Air Fund. Using fresh air as a symbol of rural wholesomeness in contrast to urban deviance, the organization aimed to mold children into model citizens by exposing them to the countryside. Diverging ideas about cities and air impacted children’s experiences, determining whether charities treated them equally regardless of race or sex and whether reformers respected or tried to break familial bonds.
Plater, Marika. "Tonic for Body or Soul: Fresh Air for Poor Children in Progressive Era New York City." Journal of Urban History (Article published online August 31, 2021). https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/00961442211040453