Maiden Voyages: July 2017

Mission Statement: As this site developed, it has become more and more apparent that it serves a greater purpose than one would assume at first glance.  As if living in a nightmarish world of doublespeak, it seems as if the mainstream culture would portray us as misanthropes.  We have, in fact, pursued the exploration of the subject of little girls with a sincere desire for self-knowledge.  Every investigation and every decision has two sides and thus we are not only examining the character and nature of little girls themselves, but why they have such a psychological effect on us.  A few serious people out there understand this and realize that this site must survive and persistently make its presence known to the mainstream community.  It was thought that to help bridge the gap, there should be an explicit mission statement so that those unfamiliar with this site and who might get the wrong first impression can see that this is a serious endeavor with a challenging mission.  The first four, and most essential, clauses in this statement have now been published—each introduced through the Facebook page and then added to the ‘Mission Statement’ page here.  More clauses will be added, but the key points are now in place and other pages will be added in time to make Pigtails in Paint a more effective resource and launching point for relevant and constructive social change.

An Image is Worth a Thousand Words: In the June ‘Maiden Voyages’ I reported how Google+ censored a photograph by Ilona Szwarc, hinting that it “depicts the exploitation or abuse of children” or “presents children in a sexual manner”. Now Christian informs me that his profile was temporarily suspended under a similar pretext after having participated to a Google+ discussion group opposing the stigmatization of minorities and, by extension, pedophiles; which was eventually banned. On the other hand, groups or individual profiles propagating hate, in particular glorifying Nazism or promoting anti-Semitism have not been removed, despite being reported; some of this content happens to be illegal in certain European countries, according to anti-racist watchdog organizations. So efforts are underway to put pressure on Google if it wishes to continue operating in those countries.  For any Google+ users who want to protest this hypocrisy, they can write on the profile of the Google+ owner or on the Google+ Help community.

Rescuing the Girl Next Door: There is a new film called The Book of Henry (2017) about a boy who uses his genius to help others.  His next door neighbor, played by Maddie Ziegler, is being abused by her stepfather while Henry helps strategize what to do about it.  You can watch the trailer here.

Archetypes of Femininity: A colleague recommended an interesting book published in 1988 called Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Sìecle Culture by Bram Dijkstra.  It is an intelligent overview of the perceptions of women in Victorian times and how that shaped their portrayal in imagery.  Dijkstra’s research is excellent, but he condemns artists too much for being the products of their own age.  It also points out how artists, including women, could only gain success if their work presented acceptable subjects and interpretations.  The eventual fascination with the girl child came about in an age that was infantilizing women and artists were escaping to so-called purer forms supposedly devoid of the evils of sexuality undeniable in the adult female form.  Because of this, it became possible for artists, like Charles Dodgson, to explore—however subconsciously—the eroticism of children with impunity.  This offers some real insight into the cultural environment these artists worked in.  The book is more valuable for its observations of cultural movements and how they shape today’s attitudes rather than Dijkstra’s opinion on the merit of particular artists.  The book is discussed on Celestial Venus and a book review can be found here.

Putting the Nature Back in Naturism: An associate mentioned a couple of images he found featuring naturists in the San Francisco area.  The TreeSpirit Project  founded and photographed by Jack Gescheidt was already reviewed by Pip but continues to add new images of which prints can be ordered.  It is important to realize that nudity can be used as an important political tactic that is both consistent with the group’s agenda while challenging people’s perceptions and complacency.

Child Models and Actors: Often lost in the sensationalist debate is the reality of child modeling and the children’s perception of their experience.  One of our readers has been feeding me interesting articles and tidbits on this subject and I keep meaning to pass them on.  So for the next few months, I will be publishing the links here until I have gotten through all of them.  Most of these items have to do with the stigmatization of children being nude, but I know that these issues overlap with many other ethical and legal subjects as well.  The first submission is anecdotal; it appears that there is actually a Facebook fashion blog that features a nude girl as its avatar.  I have also been informed that a nude image was successfully uploaded on IMDb from The Spy Who Caught a Cold recently reviewed on this site.

A Skin Thing: The producers of a recent exhibition called Skin Thing in Australia made a very apt choice for introductory speaker, Olympia Nelson.  Those familiar with Nelson will remember that her family became the subject of controversy and she courageously defended her mother’s (Polixeni Papapetrou) work publicly at the tender age of ten. Interestingly, there are reports that the artist will soon be releasing certain images that were held back at that time because of the thoughtless and hurtful comments received.

One Blond Little Girl … and Many Racists in Europe

EPA/Greek Police – Maria (October 2013) (1)

My previous article ‘The Abducted Girl in Anti-Roma Imagery‘ analysed the use, notably in the early 20th century illustrated press, of the theme of the European little girl abducted by Roma. Now I will discuss the affair of the “blond angel” Maria, where the discovery of a blond little girl in a Roma camp in Greece sparked an international hysteria, with unfounded accusations of child abduction, and led to similar accusations being raised against Roma parents with blond children in other European countries. It revealed deep-seated racist stereotypes about this ethnic group. Finally, we will see that the “child abductors” are not the Roma, but the official institutions that have systematically taken away children from families of ethnic minorities.

Since this article is already very long, I had to leave out a detailed analysis of media coverage—not only the openly hateful gutter press (The Daily Beast, Daily Mail, The Sun, etc.), but also the self-styled “serious” BBC, which only propagated subtler forms of prejudice. I might return to this aspect on another occasion.

I have used many sources: first an article in Spiegel Online International (October 28, 2013), second a consolidation of the case by Natasha Dukach in Fair Observer (June 26, 2015), which contains many links to media treatment of the case, and third an extensive study of the case in the French Wikipedia, with many links to important documents, media coverage and scholarly analyses (this work was awarded the “article of quality” label by Wikipedia). See the references at the end of this post.

The story

Early in the morning of October 16, 2013, Greek police raided a Roma community in the town of Farsala (in central Greece).

Police were actually looking for drugs and weapons, but then they caught sight of this girl who looks so different than the rest of the family — and that alone sparked suspicions and fueled speculation: Maria could have been abducted or sold to a Roma family that kept the girl as an attraction, just as dancing bears were once led on chains through the towns of Europe. They could have forced her to beg or work for them, it was thought. … 10 police officers banged on the door … and then pulled Maria out of bed.
“This child is not yours; it’s white,” yelled one of the policemen. The little girl didn’t cry. The police also took along the parents, and the three of them sat in the backseat of a squad car. –Spiegel Online International, October 28, 2013

The couple claiming to be the parents of the little girl, Eleftheria Dimopoulou and Christos Salis, aged 40 and 39 respectively, were kept in police custody and interrogated.

Maria with her adoptive parents, Eleftheria Dimopoulou and Christos Salis (October 2013)

When police questioned them about Maria, they lied at first. But they eventually told the story of the Bulgarian woman, a migrant worker who placed the child in their care. Nevertheless, mistrust persisted. Dimopoulou, the mother, had a forged passport. To make matters worse, the couple have reportedly been collecting child benefits for a total of 14 officially registered children, six of which must have been born within a 10-month period, according to the information that they provided. They allegedly collected 2,800 Euros ($3,850) a month this way (Spiegel Online International).

DNA tests confirmed that Maria was not the biological daughter of Dimopoulou and Salis. The couple was charged with child abduction and forgery. Interpol released a Yellow Notice stating:

On 16 October 2013, a police operation took place in a camp near Larissa/Greece. During the operation, a little girl (approximately 4 years old) was found and the subsequent DNA check revealed that she was not the biological daughter of the couple who presented themselves as her parents. Preliminary investigations revealed that the couple abducted the minor in 2009 under unknown conditions.

The affair immediately made headlines in the European press, which in most case relayed uncritically the accusation of abduction, and sometimes spread various rumors, that Maria was forced to beg, that she was raised for prostitution, or in order to be sold in marriage at age 12, etc. And according to the Spiegel article, “Some TV reports have even speculated that the family wanted to raise Maria so they could sell her organs, and one story on organ trafficking included images of the Roma settlement.”

On October 22nd, two “blond angels” (blond Roma children with blue eyes) were found in Ireland, a 7-year-old girl in Tallaght and a 2-year-old boy in Athlone. The Guarda (Irish police) removed them from their parents, but in both cases DNA tests revealed that they were indeed the biological parents of the children; the latter were thus returned to their families (The Telegraph, October 23, 2013; The Guardian, October 24, 2013). In Serbia, skinheads attempted to abduct a fair-skinned Roma child:

On 22 October news server Blic.rs reported that a group of men described as skinheads almost succeeded in abducting a two-year-old child last Saturday evening from in front of his home on Šafarikova Street in Novi Sad just because the child’s skin was fairer than that of his father, Stefan Nikolić. The men accused Nikolić, who is of Romani nationality, of having stolen the child from its biological parents.
Nikolić told Blic.rs that when he threatened to call the police, the hooligans ran away. (Romea.cz, October 23, 2013)

Reuters – International appeal

Maria was put into the custody of the charity The Smile of the Child. An international appeal to find her parents was launched, which got around 9000 replies. Panayiotis Pardalis, spokesman for the charity, said that “about 10 cases of missing children around the world are “being taken very seriously” in connection with Maria’s case. They include children from the United States, Canada, Poland and France.” (CNN, October 23, 2013) But none of the cases matched Maria.

Meanwhile the last explanation given by the couple, that they had been given the girl as a baby by a Bulgarian woman who couldn’t take care of her, was confirmed by their Greek lawyer and also by residents of the Roma camp in Farsala, who said that Maria’s biological father had been visiting a few days before. Investigations led to a Roma camp in Nikolaevo, Bulgaria, where many residents show the same features as Maria. A couple with 9 children was identified, Atanas Rusev and Sasha Ruseva, aged 36 and 38 respectively; DNA tests confirmed that they were the biological parents of Maria. A check at the hospital in Lamia yielded her birth certificate, dated January 31, 2009 (GR Reporter, January 14, 2014). Here is the version given by Sasha Ruseva:

In 2008, she went to Greece to harvest oranges and gave birth to a girl there. She actually intended to name her Stanka, but since nobody at the hospital understood that, she called the baby Maria. She said she had no money to acquire papers for the child. One of the women helping with the harvest offered to take care of the child and promised: “You can pick her up her anytime.” She never took any money for the girl, says Ruseva. She worked for another few days in Greece, and then she returned to Nikolaevo, she says.
Ruseva has seen pictures of Maria on TV. “I would take her back, but I’m so poor that I don’t even have enough money to properly clothe my children,” she says (Spiegel).

Stoyan Nenov/Reuters – Sasha Ruseva with 2-year-old son Atanas (October 2013)

The article adds, “And the Greek Roma who have raised Maria are thus neither child traffickers nor thieves, but merely the two adults who have been Maria’s father and mother since soon after her birth.”

Guilty until proven innocent, human rights violated

Media coverage mostly uncritically propagated accusations of child trafficking against Salis and Dimopoulou. As writes the Spiegel article: “The principle of innocent until proven guilty — which should also apply to Roma families — was ignored by the TV reporters. Every day now, the Greek government orders Roma communities to be searched for weapons, drugs and blond children.” Similarly the police assumed that they were guilty of abducting Maria. Indeed the above-quoted Interpol Yellow Notice said “Preliminary investigations revealed that the couple abducted the minor in 2009 under unknown conditions.”

EPA/Greek Police – Maria (October 2013) (2)

The Smile of the Child also propagated the worst stereotypes about Roma, accusing Salis and Dimopoulou of the most heinous crimes without proof. According to The Huffington Post of October 19, 2013, Panayiotis Pardalis, a spokesman for the charity, said “it was obvious” that she was not a Roma girl, while its director Kostas Yannopoulos told private Skai TV “We are shocked by how easy it is for people to register children as their own … There is much more to investigate, there are other registered children that were not found in the settlement, and I believe police will unravel a thread that doesn’t just have to do with the girl.” According to CNN, October 23, 2013, Pardalis also said “We don’t have any other information if this girl was forced to work or to beg on streets.” In a video interview shown on BBC News (October, 18, 2013), Yannopoulos declared “it shows that it could be kidnapping and combined efforts of these people to buy and sell children … They will use this little girl in the streets to beg because she was blonde and everybody says she was cute.” Then in a subsequent video on BBC News (October, 19, 2013), he said “she was either sold at maternity or later abducted for begging, because they use children for begging, or later for prostitution or even worse for selling for other purposes.” The nature of this “worse” is left to your imagination.

Natasha Dukach raises an important point:

Not a single article even mentioned the possibility of human rights violations to the Roma couple. As they adopted Maria illegally and had problems with their papers, no one considered their human rights. … Each European country has its own human rights laws, and these should be applied to everyone in the country, regardless of their nationality or ethnicity. Human rights laws were not applied in the case of Maria. The media failed to report on this angle or even ask the question as to whether gypsies have human rights.

Because Maria’s adoption by the Greek couple was informal, both their parenting rights and those of the Bulgarian biological parents were not taken into account. The fact that Salis and Dimopoulou fraudulently declared 14 children in order to obtain child benefits is not a valid excuse for this. Indeed, there have often been affairs of financial or fiscal fraud involving huge sums of money, but each time the (rich and non-Roma) defrauders saw their rights respected, and their family was not broken by authorities. Incidentally, fraud on taxes and social benefits are very frequent in Greece.

As remarks Jana Hainsworth in Euractiv, society tends more and more to remove children from their families because of “bad” parenting, but in the majority of cases, the family problems are due to poverty.

The informal adoption of Maria by Salis and Dimopoulou can be explained by Roma culture. Unlike Westerners, they do not function according to the model of the nuclear family, where parents “own” their children, whose interactions with the adult world are strictly regimented. They rather follow the extended family system, where children can be raised by cousins, uncles, grandparents, etc. and there is an extensive community involvement in the raising, education and welfare of children. Living as a “homeless nation” marginalized and excluded by mainstream society, they tend to follow their own rules, and not those of the countries where they are stigmatized and marginalized. As writes Louise Doughty in The Guardian of October 22, 2013:

Informal adoption is commonplace, particularly in societies where children are raised collectively by extended family units, and families of eight or 10 are not unusual. Across the world, children in economically difficult circumstances are left with grandparents, aunts and uncles, or sometimes given away because the birth parents cannot provide for them. This is hardly a practice unique to Roma society, and it is a long way from deliberate abduction for the purposes of “child trafficking”, an assumption that the non-Roma world has been happy to make with impunity.

The aftermath

As soon as it was revealed that Maria was indeed the biological daughter of the Bulgarian Roma couple, the press immediately lost interest in her case. Most journals that had propagated the accusation of abduction soon forgot her. Some turned their coats elegantly, such as the French online journal Atlantico: on October 22 it titled ‘Greece: “the blond angel” was at the heart of a child traffick and was destined to be sold’ then on October 24 an article by Emanuela Ignatoiu-Sora titled ‘Why affairs of “blond angels” unfortunately awaken prejudices against Roma, children kidnappers.’

Maria as a toddler (c.2011)

As writes Zeljko Jovanovic in The Guardian of October 28, 2013, under the appropriate title ‘Maria is Roma — so now she will become invisible once more’:

When the glare of the media spotlight fades, Maria will go back to a life of exclusion, without basic documentation or rights … But now that it has emerged that Maria is a Roma child, it is painfully predictable that global interest in her fate will fade. Whatever the legal fate of the couple who have been charged with her abduction, Maria, like other Roma children, will have to navigate her way through life suffering illiteracy, unemployment, and segregation in education.

So it has been very difficult to find more recent information about her case (apart in the French Wikipedia article).

On June 30, 2014, the tribunal of Larissa awarded full custody of Maria to the Smile of the Child charity. The decision was motivated by the need to avoid a change of environment for the girl, who had been in the care of the charity since October 2013. She is now going to school. On November 9, 2015, the appeals court of Larissa acquitted Christos Salis and Eleftheria Dimopoulou of the charge of abduction. But for their use of forged documents, they were sentenced to suspended prison terms, 2 years for Dimopoulou and 18 months for Salis.

It seems that Bulgarian authorities intended “to remove seven of Sasha and Atanas’s other children, placing them in different social care services including an institution.” (Jana Hainsworth, Euractiv, November 13, 2013) However I have no information on what was finally decided in this case, as well as on any Greek decision regarding the custody of the other children of Salis and Dimopoulou.

EPA/Greek Police – Close-up of Maria (October 2013)

Blond angels and dark devils

When the DNA of the two blond Roma children in Ireland was shown to match that of their brown parents, the two French media France 24 and L’Express titled ‘No “blond angels” in Ireland, the two Roma children given back to their families’ and ‘No “blond angel” in Ireland: two Roma children have been given back to their parents.’ Apparently, blond children are “angels” only if they are Westerners abducted by Roma. As writes Louise Doughty in The Guardian:

She is, we have been told repeatedly, the girl Greece is calling “the blonde angel”. She is certainly blonde — and she is a young child who deserves concern as all children do, particularly those facing poverty or discrimination. Whether or not she is angelic is a matter of stereotype rather than personality. She is angelic in the eyes of the media only in stark contrast to the circumstances in which she was found: in a Roma camp in Greece, with dark-skinned parents who, DNA tests have revealed, cannot be her birth parents.

Nikolay Doychinov/AFP Getty Images – Three Rusev children inside their family home (2013) (1)

Some people have explained by a kind of genetic defect the light skin and blond hair of Maria and of some residents in the Roma settlement of Nikolaevo. “Maria’s blonde hair and pale complexion was found to be due to her biological father’s albino gene,” writes Natasha Dukach in Fair Observer. In other words, this would be some sort of accidental occurrence.

Nikolay Doychinov/AFP Getty Images – Three Rusev children inside their family home (2013) (2)

However blond hair, a light skin and blue eyes are not uncommon among Roma people. In The New York Times of October 25, 2013, Dan Bilefsky quotes Dezideriu Gergely, the executive director of the European Roma Rights Center, based in Budapest:

Mr. Gergely, a human rights lawyer who has a Roma father and a white Romanian mother, noted that many Roma, who arrived in Europe from India centuries ago and are also known as Gypsies, came from mixed families.
He himself has light skin and blue eyes, which he said punctured the widespread stereotype that Roma have dark hair and dusky complexions.

Nikolay Doychinov/AFP Getty Images – Four Rusev children inside their family home (2013)

One can guess that Westerners don’t see white children with coloured parents in the same way as the reverse:

“Imagine if the situation were reversed and the children were brown and the parents were white, would they have ever been taken away?” said Dezideriu Gergely. … “The most dangerous consequence of the hysteria is that now we have to live in fear that our children can be removed from us on the basis of a wrong perception. No one should be profiled on the basis of their ethnicity.” (Dan Bilefsky, The New York Times)

Gene Demby in NPR, October 27, 2013, inquired with readers:

We asked readers on Twitter about times when people treated them and their relatives as if they weren’t related. Some stories were funny. But sometimes the cops were called.
One Asian-American woman told us that her white adoptive parents and her white husband are assumed to be related, while she was assumed to be the person who married in. But several women of color with light-skinned children said people just assume them to be their nannies and not their parents. Several people remembered that as children, people inquired with concern about their safety — in echoes of the Roma cases, strangers thought their darker skin parents might have been abductors. (Interestingly, white or lighter-skinned parents with darker children were instead assumed to be adoptive parents.)

Greek Police – Maria (October 2013) (3)

The dark-skinned Rom is seen as a symbol of dirt and crime. For dirt, compare the image of Maria on the day of the police raid, shown at the top of this article, with the one used in the international appeal to search her parents, shown here: fingers tainted purple, unkempt hair and a distressed look in the former, then neatly combed hair, a nice pink and white sweater and a smile in the latter. According to The Huffington Post, Panayiotis Pardalis, spokesman for The Smile of the Child said “She was afraid and under some psychological pressure when she arrived. Colleagues have been trying to communicate but are struggling. She seems to understand Greek but cannot speak it. She was living under bad conditions and was very dirty but is now safe.”

For crime, I quote again the words of Gergely given by Dan Bilefsky:

“It is mystifying that those accused of criminality are seen to represent the Roma community,” he said, noting that if people engaged in human trafficking it was because of severe poverty, not their cultural background. “Applying collective responsibility to the entire Roma community is unacceptable.” … Roma advocates counter that if there is crime among some Roma, it is the byproduct of severe economic deprivation and social exclusion that allowed a minority of unscrupulous ringleaders to exploit poor people desperately eking out an existence on society’s fringes.

Who are child abductors?

In my previous article, I quoted Thomas Acton, Emeritus Professor of Romani Studies: “I know of no documented case of Roma / Gypsies / Travellers stealing non-Gypsy children anywhere.” Quite to the contrary, there are many instances of minority children being systematically removed from their families in order to be put into the custody of white middle-class families. Well-known are the plight of the aboriginal children in Canada (the “Sixties Scoop”) and Australia (the “Stolen Generations”). The Yenish are a nomadic group living in Central Europe; in Switzerland, between 1926 to 1972, 600 Yenish children were forcibly taken from their parents by the “Oeuvre d’entraide aux enfants de la grand-route”, a charity set up to “protect children in danger of abandonment and vagrancy.”

So, sadly, the accused are rather the victims, poor, marginalized and unable to defend themselves.

References:

Further reading:

The Abducted Girl in Anti-Roma Imagery

This is the first of two articles on the use of the girl image in anti-Roma racism. Here I will describe the hundreds of years old accusation that Roma steal non-Roma children. In the next one, I will discuss in depth the case of the “blond angel” in 2013, when the presence of a blond little girl in a Roma camp led to the claim by both police and media that she had been abducted from a non-Roma family.

Note: Following European usage, I use the singular noun Rom and the plural noun and adjective Roma to designate people of this ethnicity, while the adjective Romani will designate the corresponding culture and language. There are also ethnic Roma subgroups carrying specific names: Sinti, Kale, Manush, Romanichal, etc. However well-known designations such as “Gypsy” or “Tzigane” / “Gitano” should be avoided, as they usually carry cultural and literary stereotypes.

The Roma people originated from India and migrated into Europe during the Middle Ages. For a long time it was thought that they came from Egypt, as illustrated by the novel Isabel of Egypt, first youth love of emperor Charles V written by the German romantic Achim von Arnim in 1812 (imagining a brief love affair between the Holy German Emperor and the daughter of the leader of the Roma people); indeed the word “Gypsy” comes from “Egyptian.” On the other hand designations such as “Tzigane” or “Gitano” come from the medieval Greek Atsinganos, meaning “untouchable.”

Roma were enslaved in Romania until the middle of the 19th century. In Western Europe, they have been persecuted since the 15th century, first accused of being Turks, or Turkish spies, then of being criminals. Over and over, laws and ordinances were enacted to prevent them from settling down, with various penalties for offenders: deportation, forced labour, flogging, mutilation, execution or their children to be taken away. In 1721, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI ordered the execution of all Roma adults, while children were “to be put in hospitals for education.”

Being always expelled from one place to another led the Roma people to a life of forced nomadism (similarly, during periods of persecution, Jews often moved from one town to another); from that comes the image of Gypsies living in caravans. While Jews were generally emancipated throughout Western Europe during the 19th century, the same did not happen for Roma, who were considered “born criminals.” The persecution culminated in the Nazi genocide that targeted both Jews and Roma for systematic extermination; the number of Roma victims is estimated between half and one and a half million. This genocide has been called Samudaripen (meaning “mass killing”) or Porajmos / Porrajmos / Pharrajimos (meaning “devouring” or “destruction”).

Sinti / Roma children victims of Dr. Mengele in Auschwitz-Birkenau

Sinti / Roma children victims of Dr. Mengele in Auschwitz-Birkenau

Literary depiction of Roma shows two apparently contradicting aspects. On the one hand they are presented as criminals on the dark side of humanity. For instance in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the vampire Count is transported by savage Gypsies. On the other hand the word “Gypsy” suggests a free and careless life made of travel but no hard work, with picturesque customs, clothing, singing and dance, as well as alluring and liberated women, such as Esmeralda in Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, or Carmen in Prosper Mérimée’s novella and the opera by Georges Bizet derived from it. A similar dual racist stereotype holds for African-Americans, seen both as criminals and as people endowed with a very potent sexuality.

Minorities seen as dangerous are generally presented as posing a threat to children. For instance in medieval Europe, Jews were accused of killing Christian children in order to use their blood in the making of unleavened bread for Passover. Now it has been repeated over and over that Roma abduct non-Roma children. Often the abducted child is a girl, as a symbol of helplessness.

Miguel de Cervantes - La Gitanilla (book covers)

Miguel de Cervantes – La Gitanilla (book covers)

The accusation already appears in La Gitanilla (The Little Gypsy Girl), the first novella contained in the Novelas Ejemplares (The Exemplary Novels), the collection of short stories written by Miguel de Cervantes between 1590 and 1612. La Gitanilla is the story of a 15-year-old gypsy girl named Preciosa, who is said to be talented, extremely beautiful, and wise beyond her years. A Spanish nobleman falls in love with her, and after many peripeties, it is revealed that Preciosa is the daughter of a magistrate, Don Fernando de Acevedo, knight of the order of Calatrava; Preciosa’s Roma grandmother confesses to having kidnapped her as a young child and raised her as her own granddaughter. Notice the link between the qualities of Preciosa (talented, beautiful and wise) and the fact that she has been abducted, hinting that Roma as an inferior race could not have such qualities themselves; also in many book covers, Preciosa is shown having blond hair.

I searched the French illustrated “popular” press of the early 20th century for illustrations of anti-Roma racism. Les Faits-Divers Illustrés was a weekly published between 1905 and 1910, with a peculiar taste for the most horrendous crimes and the worst catastrophes. Part of the collection has been digitized by Gallica, and I downloaded there the following image (also found on Wikimedia Commons):

Les Faits-Divers Illustrés, no. 164 (10 December 1908) - Romanichels voleurs d'enfants : Une mère défend sa fille

Les Faits-Divers Illustrés, no. 164 (10 December 1908) – Romanichels voleurs d’enfants : Une mère défend sa fille

The caption translates as “Gypsies child thieves: a mother defends her daughter.” I have transcribed the corresponding article here. It tells that one morning, as gypsies had left a small town, a mother noticed the disappearance of her 3-year-old daughter.  She alerted people around her, then thought about the departed gypsies. Armed with a pole, she ran after them and saw her daughter at the front of a caravan. She snatched her and fought off the gypsies with the pole. Meanwhile, townspeople who had followed her arrived, accompanied by policemen; the latter had to use their authority to prevent people from lynching the gypsies.

Le Petit Journal was a daily published between 1863 and 1944. Politically, it was republican (in the French sense), conservative and nationalist; in 1937 it became the mouthpiece of a fascist party. Between 1884 and 1937 it published an illustrated weekly supplement. Part of the collection of the weekly supplement has been digitized by Gallica, and the website Cent.ans has an almost complete collection of the front and back covers between 1890 and 1930, often with a transcription of the corresponding articles.

The first image, downloaded from Gallica, can also be found—with different colours and contrast—on Cent.ans and on Wikimedia Commons (where it is credited to the Musée d’Histoire de la Ville de Luxembourg). The caption translates as “Child abducted by nomads.” I have transcribed the corresponding article here. Antoinette Mirguet, a 10-year-old girl, was going to school, when she was called from a caravan. As soon as she entered it, the man made the horse start. She screamed, but she was threatened with a knife. Approaching the German border, a brave vine grower heard the girl’s screams, and he warned the nomads that he would split their heads with his spade if they did not release their prisoner. Intimidated, they released her, and her savior could bring her back to her parents.

Le Petit Journal Supplément Illustré no. 585 (2 February 1902) - Enfant enlevée par des nomades

Le Petit Journal Supplément Illustré no. 585 (2 February 1902) – Enfant enlevée par des nomades

This second image, also downloaded from Gallica, can be found on Cent.ans with the transcription of the corresponding article. Calling for an “energetic law” against vagrants, it tells how a gang of nomads assaulted a 11-year-old girl who was going back home from school, taking her to a caravan. But she resisted bitterly and screamed desperately, so that the Roma had to abandon her and flee.

Le Petit Journal Supplément Illustré no. 1082 (13 August 1911) - Fillette enlevée par des bohémiens

Le Petit Journal Supplément Illustré no. 1082 (13 August 1911) – Fillette enlevée par des bohémiens

This third image comes from Cent.ans. I do not have the corresponding article. The caption, titled “A caravan went by…”, tells that a 9-year-old girl was playing when she was abducted by a Rom, tied up and gagged, then brought into his caravan, which departed. But the child managed to escape.

Le Petit Journal Illustré no. 1675 (28 January 1923) - Une roulotte passa...

Le Petit Journal Illustré no. 1675 (28 January 1923) – Une roulotte passa…

In this collection I also found several images about Roma girls, with a quite different tone. The following one comes from Cent.ans. I do not have the corresponding article. The caption tells that a little Roma girl was going to her parents’ caravan with a basket full of fish. Then wild cats, attracted by the smell, attacked her and disfigured her. Readers will notice that no mention is made about rescuing her.

Le Petit Journal Illustré no. 1656 (17 September 1922) - Attaquée par des chats affamés

Le Petit Journal Illustré no. 1656 (17 September 1922) – Attaquée par des chats affamés

The next image, downloaded from Gallica, illustrates the theme of Roma teenagers being precocious criminals: “A farmer woman attacked by Roma.” The corresponding article (with the image) is found on Cent.ans. It says that two “impudent daughters of Bohemia,” “Roma of pure race,” were begging for food. As the farmer woman said she had no food to give them, they assaulted her. Her screams attracted her husband and a hunter. The two Roma escaped but were afterwards arrested and jailed. They were aged 15 and 17. The article ends by calling on the State to address the “scourge” of people without regular home or employment.

Le Petit Journal Supplément Illustré no. 782 (12 November 1905) - Une fermière attaquée par des bohémiennes

Le Petit Journal Supplément Illustré no. 782 (12 November 1905) – Une fermière attaquée par des bohémiennes

There is also an image and an article (in No. 877 dated 8 September 1907) about Roma releasing a bear in a sheep enclosure, together with a longer one about the origin and customs of the Roma people, repeating the usual stereotypes mixing the fascination for their picturesque life with their labeling as “lazy” and “born criminal”.

The child abduction libel against Roma is also found in “children’s songs” or “nursery rhymes,” which were told to children to warn them against approaching Roma. The following one is famous in the English-speaking world:

My Mother Said… (Anonymous “Children’s Song”)

My Mother said, I never should
Play with the gypsies in the wood.
If I did, she would say;
‘Naughty girl to disobey!

Your hair shan’t curl and your shoes shan’t shine,
You gypsy girl, you shan’t be mine!’
And my father said that if I did,
He’d rap my head with the teapot lid.

My mother said that I never should
Play with the gypsies in the wood.
The wood was dark, the grass was green;
By came Sally with a tambourine.

I went to sea – no ship to get across;
I paid ten shillings for a blind white horse.
I upped on his back and was off in a crack,
Sally tell my mother I shall never come back.

These accusations repeated for centuries rest on nothing. Thomas Acton, Emeritus Professor of Romani Studies, University of Greenwich, clearly stated: “I know of no documented case of Roma / Gypsies / Travellers stealing non-Gypsy children anywhere.” In a letter to Dennis Marlock dated August 2nd, 1990 (quoted by Ian Hancock), he wrote:

Compared with the massive record of murder, theft, kidnapping and other crimes by non-Gypsies against Gypsies throughout history, Gypsy crime against non-Gypsies pales almost into insignificance, so that to prioritize the study of the latter over the former shows a twisted sense of values.

To finish, readers who want to learn more about the history of the persecution of Roma in Europe, can watch the Holocaust Living History Workshop video Porrajmos: The Romani and the Holocaust with Ian Hancock, produced by University of California Television.

Children of All Nations

Hetty Brody - Children of all Nations (1972)

Hetty Brody – Children of all Nations (1972)

When I was cleaning my parent’s basement a few weeks ago, I came across a book of rug designs in which I found this charming Children of All Nations rug. Little information was given about it other than it was a punch hook by Hetty Brody of Hollywood California. The book of rug designs was published in 1972, the rug certainly reflects the spirit of the time. The image of children of different races holding hands appears to be inspired by Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. It seems appropriate to consider this rug due to the current racial tension after the fatal shooting of an African-American man by a Louisiana police officer. Many sociologists believe that racial tension is approaching a point of the street riots that swept urban American in the late 1960s.

When I discovered the rug, I admired the optimism of the image of nude girls but realize such a spirit can hardly be found today. Why is it so? There’s an atmosphere of skepticism today. The Australian philosopher David Stove called the epistemological gloom “cognitive Calvinism”; Stove observed, “Calvinists believe in the total depravity of human nature: if an impulse is one of ours, it is bad, because it is one of ours.” A cognitive Calvinist in contrast to a religious Calvinist, is one who has no faith in God but still presumes all motives are of self-interest even if actions may appear outwardly good. Contemporary thought operates along these lines of skepticism of intent. Traditional literature and works of art are deconstructed to expose the supposed hypocrisy behind the humanist ideals expressed in the works. Many postmodernists dismiss the notion of universal human qualities and values as an oppressive construction, and if so, why not deconstruct this text?

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.

Our society is falling apart due to “cognitive Calvinism”, the presumption of the total depravity of human nature, the idealism found in the 1960’s is greatly needed. No society can function based on distrust. This is why I have come to love images of this kind, it is the very antithesis of our “Orwellian” culture. The irony is, I find that people who have a traditional religious background tend to be open-minded to images of nude children because they still respect the idea of innocence. I have good reason to believe the current state of self-consciousness is due to the “hermeneutics of suspicion”, where things are not accepted at face value. Most feminists presume images of beautiful females are some form of sexploitation. This ideology has atomized society, which I have reason to believe is intentional. The authors of anti-utopias predicted that authoritarianism would intentionally break the ties of the family. The only solution I see is a return to romantic idealism which recognizes how industrialization has alienated the perception of life.

Children of All Nations pattern (1972)

Children of All Nations pattern (1972)

A Little Girl’s Guide to Personality: Avril Podmore

Among the items in Stuart’s extensive private collection are items that were never published, but are nonetheless interesting. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to publish things like this that would ordinarily never see the light of day.

This little book of drawings was made by a little girl from the ages of 8 to 10. There were a total of 30 images in the book, but these were a few of the interesting examples sent to me. It is so touching to see a young person putting so much effort into something like this.

Avril Podmoor - Drawing Book (Title Page) (1920--1922)

Avril Podmore – Drawing Book (Title Page) (1920–1922)

Avril Podmoor - Drawing Book (1920--1922) (1)

Avril Podmore – Drawing Book (1920–1922) (1)

It is remarkable how easily a child assimilates the stereotypes of her culture. This would be considered politically incorrect today and there is some speculation that this particular stereotype was, in part, devised to keep Black people “in their place”.

Avril Podmoor - Drawing Book (1920--1922) (2)

Avril Podmore – Drawing Book (1920–1922) (2)

Another personality type that I’m sure many girls can relate to is this compulsively proper type. Sure, she seems to miss out on all the fun but what’s worse: she tends to grow up and make life miserable for everyone else.

Avril Podmoor - Drawing Book (1920--1922) (3)

Avril Podmore – Drawing Book (1920–1922) (3)

And even in the dreary winter, a girl can use fantasy to make things more cheery.

Avril Podmoor - Drawing Book (1920--1922) (4)

Avril Podmore – Drawing Book (1920–1922) (4)

If a more suitable dance partner is not available, Teddy will do.

Avril Podmoor - Drawing Book (1920--1922) (5)

Avril Podmore – Drawing Book (1920–1922) (5)

Maiden Voyages: May 2016

A Premium Postcard Collection: It is with great excitement that I announce that my friend Stuart—who has perhaps the world’s biggest collection of Edwardian postcards—has finally consented to share his collection with Pigtails readers.  It will take time to sort through and scan thousands of postcards but as they become available, I will share them here.  For starters, some new Reutlinger images have come to light and that post has been updated.  I think I can speak for all of us when I say that this generosity is greatly appreciated.

Guilt by Association: On May 9th, photographer Chris Madaio is scheduled to stand trial for charges that he violated the conditions of his parole after serving 4 years in prison for possession of child pornography (see more details on his story here).  Although Madaio does not contest the original charges, the Morgan County, Alabama authorities seem determined to find any excuse to continue to punish him.  The new charges are based on images found on a computer and some USB drives found in a storage unit with his name on it.  The unit belonged to two women, the sister and a friend of Samuel Hyde.  Hyde was a convicted sex offender whom Madaio knew for a short time while attending the same court-ordered program.  The women allowed Hyde personal use of the unit, but neither they nor Hyde have been indicted.  To complicate things further, Hyde made a statement against Madaio before dying under mysterious circumstances.  It would be difficult to speculate on the veracity of all the details of the case, but it is an excellent illustration of how the justice system prefers to grandstand on prosecutions rather than rehabilitate and reintegrate those who have been convicted.  Although Madaio has a court-appointed attorney, he is hopeful that a more trusted family lawyer will be allowed to serve as co-counsel.

No News is Bad News: An item came across my desk about a controversy regarding a GAP Kids clothing line and the portrayal of Black people.  An ad campaign featuring a performing troupe called Le PeTiT CiRqUe (more on them in a future post) included one image with a bigger girl resting her arm on a shorter Black girl.  You can read a little about it here.  With all the special interest groups involved in this issue, many people are getting on the bandwagon and making a lot of noise.  Whatever the circumstances, I would like to humbly suggest that those sincerely interested in the cause of racial justice not waste their energy on something that will accomplish nothing while giving free publicity to a major clothing company.  On the other hand, it is nice that Le PeTiT CiRqUe got a little press.

Gap Kids Ad Campaign (2016)

Gap Kids Ad Campaign (2016)

“Moral Welfare” on the Set: One of our readers, who is child modeling agent, has shared items of interest regarding the changing rules and conditions of child models and actors. For example, in the past, outtakes from films shot in the days before the internet would never see the light of day and if there was some inadvertent nudity, it was of little concern. But today, a lot of behind-the-scenes footage gets leaked and so the rules in Hollywood have become a lot stricter.  An online article shares an interesting anecdote regarding the opening scene of Disney’s Pollyanna and informs readers that now, under California law, it is studio teachers who are responsible for the moral welfare of children in their charge.

To Top or Not to Top: As many readers of this site are aware, in many countries outside the United States, it is routine for undeveloped younger girls to swim in public without bikini tops.  A mother shares an interesting story about her 7-year-old daughter’s recent trip to Spain.  It offers a little insight about a child’s body image and her ability to adapt to different cultural norms.  The editorial concludes with the mother seeking this advice: now that the girl is used to swimming without a top, how can she be persuaded to go back?

Auction News: A friend passed on this small item about Sotheby’s auctioning off a few Sally Mann photographs on May 19th.  A lot of big-name photographers are featured and the Mann images are numbered 58–61.  Speculation in art has continued to inflate prices.

A Belated Holiday Wish

In the United States, yesterday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, celebrating the life of the civil rights leader.  A colleague found this charming photo of Reverend King with 6-year-old Robin Arrington, the daughter of SCLC attorney Henry Arrington.

AP (Beaumont) - Martin Luther King Jr. & 6-year-old Robin Arrington (1966)

AP (Beaumont) – Martin Luther King Jr. & 6-year-old Robin Arrington (1966)

Decades after the events, there is a tendency to mythologize the man and his accomplishments, but King was acutely aware of the deep economic basis of inequality and poverty in the U.S.  Most modern accounts tend to downplay or outright ignore this fact and prefer to paint this campaign as strictly a racial one.  And thus, race is still used today to distort our understanding of the Civil Rights Movement and the motivations of this reluctant yet determined leader.

In my humble opinion, an excellent account of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life would be Bearing the Cross : Martin Luther King, Jr. , and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (Revised, 2004).  It’s a shame, and perhaps not surprising, that this book does not seem to rank high in popularity.

Makes One Cringe

While perusing images of Black girls one can find charming examples, just as one finds of girls of any race. However, since modern Black girls are descended from races that have been subjected to heavy oppression by Europeans and are still victims of cruel and unwarranted stereotypes, particularly in the United States, there are portrayals of these girls that would make any decent human being cringe. It has been a challenge finding just the right context with which to present these images.

There is a recent exhibit held by Art In These Times that deals with these images specifically and posits how they were part of a propaganda campaign to put Black people in their place after the abolition of slavery in the United States. The exhibition is called ‘Making Niggers: Demonizing and Distorting Blackness’ and will run through January 2016 in Chicago. It is based mostly on postcards from co-curator Mariame Kaba’s private collection.

From the 1890’s through the 1950’s, thousands of postcards depicting racist caricatures and stereotypes of Black people were produced across the United States and the world. Degrading images of blackness also found expression in advertising and other media. Black people were portrayed as lazy, child-like, unintelligent, ugly, chicken stealing, watermelon eating, promiscuous, crap-shooting, savage and criminal. These images comforted white people in their racist beliefs, reinforced white supremacy and enabled whites to justify violence and subjugation of Black people. The stereotypes continue to shape and shorten Black lives in the present. -From Making Niggers Exhibition Webpage, 2015

Without knowing which specific postcards are on display—there are thousands of possibilities—we present a few selections that illustrate this stereotyping through the portrayal of little Black girls. One of the first things one notices is how many of these racist images are of children. That was part of a subtle tactic to regard Black people generally as juvenile and so really these are not especially about children.

C. Levi - Kute Koon Kids: A Little Black Washing (c1910)

C. Levi – Kute Koon Kids: A Little Black Washing (c1910)

That watermelon symbol at the bottom was certainly unwarranted. It’s interesting how something that may have once been a symbol of Black independence has been turned into a racial insult.

Picaninny Freeze Ice Cream Tin (1920s)

Picaninny Freeze Ice Cream Tin (1920s)

There are a handful of stereotypical “types” of Black people and it is amazing that whole products and companies openly used these names. Pickaninny was a term commonly used to refer to a dark-skinned child and some cards would make this into a play on words like, “I’m not pickin-any body but you.” which appears on a vintage Valentine.

A lot of images show Blacks naked. This seems to play into several stereotypes so that they can just be dismissed as primitive savages.

(Artist Unknown) - Some Little Darkie Gal Trading Card (1920s)

(Artist Unknown) – Some Little Darkie Gal Trading Card (1920s)

Tuck - Happy Little Coons (c1906)

Rafael Tuck & Sons – Happy Little Coons (c1906)

Donald McGill - Just a spot of powder an' I'm dressed! (1920s)

Donald McGill – Just a spot of powder an’ I’m dressed! (1920s)

The Three Bares Postcard (Black version) (1920s)

The Three Bares Postcard (Black version) (1920s)

It is interesting to note there are both Black and white versions of this image.

[U] The Three Bares Postcard (white version) (1920s)

The Three Bares Postcard (white version) (1920s)

But really, it is an opportunity to subject them to humiliation in the name of humor.

Curt Teich & Co. - Chocolate Drops Comics (1920s) (1)

Curt Teich & Co. – Chocolate Drops Comics (1920s) (1)

Curt Teich & Co. - Chocolate Drops Comics (1920s) (2)

Curt Teich & Co. – Chocolate Drops Comics (1920s) (2)

Nudity is also an occasion to engage in sexual innuendo. This reminds white people of the ongoing sexual threat and justifies any sexual mistreatment of Blacks.

Curt Teich & Co. Postcard (1920s)

Curt Teich & Co. Postcard (1920s)

Can You Tie This One? (1920s)

Can You Tie This One? (1920s)

I Ain't Worried About No Sugar (1920s)

I Ain’t Worried About No Sugar (1920s)

Plenty of images have fanned the flames of white fear of Black sexual promiscuity and potency. And woe has come to many Black men who showed a sexual interest, or seemed to, in a white woman. This was part of the impetus for the formation of the Ku Klux Klan.

Hallmark Birthday Card (1936)

Hallmark Birthday Card (1936)

French Postcard (c1921)

French Postcard (c1921)

Even when decently dressed, they are drawn in a way to appear as though they are not wearing underwear and it is easier to get away with this when they are drawn as children. The exaggerated red lips are also a typical stereotypical feature and emphasizes their animalistic qualities.

Valentine (Date Unknown)

Valentine (Date Unknown)

Agnes Richardson - Whose Blackbird Is You? (1920s)

Agnes Richardson – Whose Blackbird Is You? (1920s)

For a time, elementary school reading levels were named after birds with bluebirds at the top and, you guessed it, blackbirds at the bottom. Many examples above make light of Black people’s unsophisticated use of English and, by doing so, helped perpetuate it.

See also Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia

Ode to Aboriginal Girls

One of our readers reminded me that Pigtails in Paint used to do a lot of short pieces and it seems things have gotten a lot more in depth and longer. I apologize, but I simply offer those things that I find interesting. I believe there must be others who share my disdain for the plethora of uncredited photo albums that can be found online these days. However, I do miss the charm of Pigtails’ older style and I assure you all that it was not my intention to deviate from that. What has happened is that as we gained credibility, we gained access to interesting back stories that cannot be found in mainstream media—even the internet.

Believe me, there are plenty of short items that will be put out in due course; it is just that when I am inspired to work on something, I want to follow through and naturally there is a lot to say. Now I offer you one my shorter contributions.

Due to political and historical factors, I have to admit so-called minorities get short shrift. I was always impressed by Pip’s efforts to include other “races” on this site from time to time. I found this postcard on a sales site and had to have it.

(Artist Unknown) - (Untitled) Published by Temperley Industries

(Artist Unknown) – (Untitled) Published by Temperley Industries

To tie together information about Aboriginal girls, I direct readers to another interesting post that Pip made a while back. Australia being the smallest of the continents, I think people lose the sense of how immense it really is with its variety of climate zones. As a result, it is also too easy to lump these people together as though everyone practices the same customs as the natives popularized by the Crocodile Dundee films.

There are two excellent posts (here and here) discussing girlhood and attitudes toward the body in a Novel Activist post. Those not familiar with that blog owe it to themselves to look at Ray Harris’ images and narrative on the subject.

Novel Activist offers social commentary on the portrayal of children in general mostly in the course of pursuing research for his novels.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’m not as sentimental as Pip about observing certain holidays or occasions.  But as I went through to repost and reread the lost posts from 2011-2012, I forgot how charming these simple and light-hearted posts were.  So, this year, I offer you this selection I have culled from various sales sites.

And speaking of occasions, I want to inform any of our readers who were not aware that Shirley Temple Black just passed away a couple days ago.  Pip did a lovely tribute to her on her birthday in 2011 and now that that post has been restored, you can see it here.  You will undoubtedly continue to see her presence on this site again and again.

 

Pigtails being a bastion of free speech, it seemed appropriate to show this one first:
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I know this is meant to be sweet, but there is just something disturbing about this giant cat:
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And continuing the animal theme:
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We tend to forget in our society that for a long time, a girl’s utility was in her skill at wifely duties and this attitude was impressed on them at a very early age.
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Cute or provocative?  You be the judge.
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Greeting card publishers were (and are) always looking for a gimmick to get people to buy their cards.  One was to have a slot for placing some item into the card—and a requisite play on words, of course.
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Sometimes this can be taken to weird extremes.  The logic of the placement of a sponge is quite strained and I’d bet good money that this was veiled attempt to promote some company’s product.
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I applaud Pip’s efforts to offer a range of girls of different races and cultures.  This also happens to be Black History Month.  Most of the items one sees on sales sites portraying Black girls is this kind of tasteless, stereotypical material that was clearly popular as it is all over the place—in this case, emphasizing the amusing “ignorant” speech patterns of Negros.  The text here seems to be a play on the popular song, Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby by Louis Jordan in 1944.  I have been toying with the idea of a post commenting on this genre of entertainment, but I still need to do a lot more research.
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This one was sitting in my archive from when I was keeping an eye out for girls with guns images for Pip.

rifle valentine card