Foundling Homes – Reward for Recklessness and Immorality

On the Abolishment of the Foundling Home in Ljubljana in the 1860s

  • Janez Cvirn Oddelek za zgodovino Filozofske fakultete Univerze v Ljubljani, Aškerčeva cesta 2, SI-1000
Keywords: Raimund Melzer, foundlings, Ljubljana foundling home, illegitimate children, infanticide


Already in the Pre-March period the growing number of abandoned children (foundlings) gave rise to a public discussion on the reform of the (Catholic) foundling system. In 1846 the manager of the local and national charity institutions of Ljubljana Dr Raimund Melzer published an extensive study on foundlings in Austria with special regard to Illyria, proposing a thorough reform of the foundling system (the abolishment of the principle of anonymous admission of mothers to the maternity hospital and children to the foundling home). However, the reform was only looked into more intensively after the restoration of the constitutional life, when the province of Carniola faced the extraordinary costs of foundling care. In the discussion taking place in the Carniola Provincial Assembly between 1866 and 1870 only a few members of (German) Constitutional Party identified with the standpoint of the Association of Medical Doctors in Carniola, which correctly saw the question of foundlings mostly as a pressing social issue. The majority of members of assembly judged the issue of foundlings from the moral and financial viewpoints. They shared Janez Bleiweis's opinion that foundling homes were institutions which undermined the foundations of the bourgeois society and Christian morality. On 24 August 1870, at Bleiweis's initiative, the Slovenian majority of the Carniolan provincial assembly adopted a decision on the abolishment of the foundling home (as of 1 July 1871). The abolishment may have relieved the provincial budget, but made the position of illegitimate children and their mothers even worse.