• Dadwagon on Facebook
  • Dadwagon on Twitter
  • Dadwagon RSS feed

Never Let the Parents Practice

February 28th, 2011  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  1 Comment

In a DadWagon first this post comes to us from one of our Facebook friends, Alexandria. It’s via the website, Parent Dish, and its about “practice babies.” Apparently, and shockingly, from 1919 to 1969, children from orphanages were taken to American colleges for use by young women in home economics classes.

The writer Lisa Grunwald used this item of historical–what is the right word: trivia, horror?–in her novel, “The Irresistible Henry House,” which may be fantastic, but could have come under the heading of something odd enough that it could have been true (and therefore written as nonfiction).

Here’s a passage from Parent Dish’s interview with Grunwald, which offers some detail on the practice babies, and also includes an improper use of the word “yummy”:

PD: Describe how the classes worked.
LG: At Cornell, “Practice, 126,” was a required course for a Bachelor of Science in home economics. Half a dozen or more students worked rotating shifts of five weeks each, weighing and measuring, feeding and changing, taking the baby out for walks and losing sleep when he cried at night. The babies were supplied by child welfare groups and leased on contract by the universities before they were eventually returned to the orphanages and put up for adoption. The “moms” were very proud of their role and even kept scrapbooks of the baby’s milestones.

PD: What has happened to the practice babies?
LG: Adoption records were hard to come by and there was no evidence, because the babies weren’t followed and studied as they grew up. Just a couple weeks ago, I got my first call from a woman who said her mom was one of the practice moms, but I haven’t had a chance to follow up yet. So, because I couldn’t find out what happened to them, I figured it would be better to try to imagine what happened. It makes a much yummier novel.

Alexandria, thanks very much. You learn something new every day.


  1. Clark Kent's Lunchbox says:

    March 1st, 2011at 9:48 am(#)

    …and now we’ve switched to 5 lb sacks of sugar in our sex ed classes. Damn budget cuts.

Leave a Response


Recent Comments

  • Dee: As one of the impressed moms there last night, and also because my kid ate 3 bowls of that bolognese, thanks for...
  • Drew Wallner via Facebook: I’m totally making this when we get back from holiday travel, I even just got a...
  • Matt: Whoops! Just put that back in. The recipe editor has been fired.
  • Ed Lilly: Looks great – thanks for posting! One question – you did not specify putting the meat back into...
  • Maks: I’m against baby yoga for sure, but want to say something regarding that author is a little wild about...

DadWagon Reads!


Do you show this to your kids?

AP Images

An unnamed gunman gestures after shooting the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, at a photo gallery in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. Turkish police shot and killed the gunman, Turkish station NTV reported. Russia's ambassador to Turkey has died after being shot in Ankara, according to Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman. #APPhoto by Burhan Ozbilici

Story developing: http://apne.ws/2hRY0rH

Dec 19th, 2016 7:32pm • No Comments

"They watch their mothers and fathers overdose and die on the bathroom floor. They live without electricity, food or heat when their parents can’t pay the bills. They stop going to school, and learn to steal and forage to meet their basic needs."

The Children of the Opioid Crisis


Left behind by addict parents, tens of thousands of youngsters flood the nation’s foster-care system; grandparents become moms and dads again

Dec 16th, 2016 2:11pm • No Comments

Don't forget the gift receipt(s)!

A Gift for Every Type of Dad (That You Can Buy on Amazon)


Including cricket-flour protein bars, ice-cold beer chillers, and an air fryer that uses hardly any oil.

Dec 9th, 2016 3:27pm • No Comments

As Ryu Spaeth pointed out, the only thing worse than "Papa" is the pronunciation "paPA." PERISH THE THOUGHT.


“I just think ‘dad’ and ‘mom’ are very Saved by the Bell-ish,” said Will Grose, 36, a Brooklyn father of three boys under the age of 5.

Nov 30th, 2016 5:20pm • 1 Comment