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The Foundling

The Foundling by Ann Leary

In 1927, Mary Engle is hired as a secretary at Nettleton State Village for Feebleminded Women of Childbearing Age in northcentral Pennsylvania. Although the village is fictional, the historical research into these facilities is not. Leary writes about the success of one such facility – Nettleton — which becomes a self-sufficient public asylum for women who *surprise* are not actually feebleminded.  Mary is a good Catholic girl who wants to do the right thing and be a good employee for her boss, Dr. Vogel. However, the longer Mary is there, the more injustice she encounters, especially when she realizes one of her former childhood friends is an inmate. When Mary begins to date a journalist who wants to expose these asylums for what they are, Mary faces a choice to either help her friend or keep her mouth shut. The conclusion is satisfying, if not heartbreaking, to learn that this was once a part of our not-too-distant past.

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