Abandoned and Adopted in a New World
The early Puritans ambivalently left England, the mother country, portraying themselves as abandoned orphans. Sustained by the belief that they were chosen people, they also emulated salvation—adoption by God—by taking in others’ children. The writings of Cotton Mather and Samuel Sewall demonstrate the fluidity of Puritan households and a commitment to helping children through informal and temporary forms of adoption. At the same time, however, a need for certainty and control, a fear of outsiders, and a patriarchal emphasis on genealogical continuity made early Americans suspicious of adoptive kinship.
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