One of the headlines on the front page of The Sun (New York, Nov. 7, 1911) gave me a momentary chill ROSEMARY FINDS A BABY. The story that followed evoked little of the famous book by Ira Levin or even more famous movie directed by Roman Polanski. On the surface it is a sweet human interest story but if one ponders the unexplored implications it becomes less sweet and more disturbing.. The Rosemary of the headline was the eight year old daughter of a New York banker. Playing in the kitchen one evening she thought she heard, over the sound of the rain, the cry of a kitten or a puppy. When she opened the door to investigate she found that the cries were actually coming from a small (they later estimated about 3 weeks old) baby. Rosemary and Mary (the family cook) brought the baby, dressed in clothes that were soaked through from the rain, into the kitchen. The baby boy was washed, dried, given some hot milk by spoon and brought up to the family dining room while the family ate dinner. Then Mr. Hollister, Rosemary's father, sent for the local police who came and took the baby away. Mr. Hollister inquired of them what would happen to the infant and he was told it would probably be sent to Bellevue.
Later that evening Rosemary saw a young woman standing in the same area where they previously found the baby. She ran when she realized she was being watched. Rosemary chased her to ask if she had been looking for a baby and the young woman responded that she had been looking for a friend.
The New York Evening World ran a longer version of the same story on page 8 LITTLE ROSEMARY FOUND BABY LIKE IN FAIRY STORY with many sentimentalizing details -- but note, it is the eight year old daughter of the banker who is sentimentalized in the story. The writer describes to the reader "touching" details of the way in which Rosemary was eager the next morning to call to find out how "her" baby slept during its first night on the ward at Bellevue. The baby is small, it gurgles and brings Rosemary great joy. But there is not even a passing query as to why the child was left or what might have driven its mother to do so. The Hollisters are clearly well off since they have a cook, a butler, a footman and other servants. Did the baby's care-givers think that this comfortable family might take their child in? Did they realize that after drying him off the Hollisters would hand him over to the police who would in turn deliver him Bellevue where he would become just another abandoned child for them to minister to?
There is no prominent follow-up to this story in either newspaper the next day. Which is not surprising since the story was not actually about the baby (who remains nameless) or the mother (whose existence is but hinted at in the article.) The story is about the exquisite sensibilities of Rosemary Hollister. Having told the "sweet" story of the wealthy little girl who "found a baby" and was still excited about it the next day the newspaper moves on to other stories because to write more would involve asking questions that might make the readers feel uncomfortable. And so the story faded from view to be replaced the next day by different human interest stories.
But the story isn't over in my mind. I wonder if the young woman was the mother of the abandoned baby. Or perhaps a friend or relative of the mother. I wonder what happened to the little boy. Mr. Hollister had asked the police to let him know where they sent the infant. Perhaps, I hoped, Mr. Hollister would wake an interest in the child.
I wonder if the child had been put in a somewhat sheltered areaway while the woman who was looking after it searched for food. Had she been forced to resort to prostitution and had, she thought, tucked the child somewhere where no harm could come to it? Was Mr. Hollister the father and had the mother left the child by his kitchen in the hope that he would look after it.
I wonder what happened to "Rosemary's" baby?