1923: Dreams of Orphan Children

National Apple Week at Washington Orphanage - 1925

While giving mental tests to children in various orphanages I have occasionally asked the children about their dreams. The questions were usually put in this way: “Do you ever have dreams at night?” and, if the child nodded or said yes, “What do you dream about?” No attempt was ever made to tease an answer from a child, nor was any effort made to get an elaboration or an interpretation of the dreams….The answers of the 80 children who responded to the questions are here printed in full.

Dreams of Girls

1. Ya. I dream in my bed.
2. Last night we saw great big fire-crackers.
3. My mama.
4. I dreamed a lady was dead. (What lady?) I don’t know. It wasn’t my mother.
5. About my mama. About my papa.
6. Yes. We dream about our father and mother.
7. My aunt. My father.
8. About my mama.
9. My sister, went home.
10. I dreamed last night about new houses, and mama, papa and aunty. And bad man started to open door and took me out of bed. And we got on train and go to Chicago. They gave me a spanking once when I got cranky.
11. About my fatherthat he’s home.
12. I dreamt my mother went away.
13. Dream about big mans and girls having a party,
I dream about pigs eat me.
14. I dream about Jesus. I dream that Jesus is our mother and God’s our father and he’s working for us hard.
15. I dream about flowers. I dream about myself. I picked some flowers but they were not very good.
16. I dreamt I lost my penny. I had it under my pillow and I thought it was down in the refectory.
17. Sometimes I dream that my mama is dead. Sometimes I dream that my sister is dead.
18. Sometimes I dream about bears, and sometimes about a little girl going to her grandma and on the way a bear catches her.
19. Once I dreamed. I thought I was home and fell out of bed and my sister came and picked me up and another sister came and hugged me.
20. Dream about myself sometimes. Dreamed about my mother last night, that she died. They thought she fainted, but she wouldn’t wake up. After they buried her she got up and she says to this man, “Where’s my child?”
21. Sometimes you dream about your mother and she comes to see you and takes you away.
22. I dreamed I was a man. (giggles.)
23. I go out and sometimes I come back, and sometimes I am out for good.
24. About my mama.
25. I dream a man comes and takes little babies and eats them up. I dreamt about a little girl and a man was going to burn her up. I got afraid last night thinking about that.
26. I dream that my father come up.
27. Sometimes I dream about my father, that I’m home.
28. About men. Men kill some people.
29. I dreamt that all the girls were in the washroom, and Mabel sent them all out but me, and then I went out and she ran after me.
30. I dream about how our Lord came down and took me up in heaven.
31. All the time since I been here I dream about my father, and my Father bringing me home once. And my brother looked at me and my cousin was in backyard playing and he peeked but couldn’t see me, and soon I came back here.
32. Last night I had one that I don’t remember now. I dreamt that a horse came up on the girls’ porch here once.
88. Dream that I go a show. Five cents.
84. In the night you dream. About mama and papa.
35. I dreamt that Santa Claus put a doll buggy under my bed before Christmas.
36. Dream lots of times that my mother wasn’t dead. Both of my mothers are dead, my step-mother and own mother. And both my step-father and own father are living.
87. Yes. Last night about my mother. About lots of things.
88. I dream about God. I dream that God makes everything, and I dream that the angels are around God. And I dream that the saints are around God, and I dream that our Lord is holy. About the Blessed Mother.
39. While you’re asleep you dream about something. You dream that your father’s going to come up and take you away sometime.
40. Yes. I dreamt I was going to my aunt’s and had to take a little girl with me, and I had to get her dressed and ready and she wouldn’t go. So I left her.
41. I dream about my playthings. About my mother. Sometimes I dream I’m studying in school. Sometimes I dream about my parents. Sometimes I dream I’m in a home. Sometimes I dream I married my grandpa.
42. About the house that’s on fire and the little girl ran out.
43. Sometimes I have nightmares and I get up and run around the dormitory.
44. Dream about getting my tonsils taken out. About little girls.
45. About horses and cows. Sometimes the cows run away and the horses stay in the barn.
48. Dreamt I had my tonsils out. I dreamt I was home.
47. I dreamt last night that my daddy came to see me and he took me away.
43. Last night I dreamt that the right side was all candy on my bed and that the left side was all cake.
49. I dreamt last night about my mother, that I go away. Sometimes I dream that I am down town, that my cousin is sick. She lives down town. Sometimes have bad dreams. Dreamed about going to the window and seeing a finger move along like that, and a girl and I looked out and saw a lady dressed in a 49 dress and she stamped on the ground. (The reference is to the “Forty-niners” celebration in Sacramento.)
51. Yes. About my mother. All the girls in this house. About the end of the world, all the houses falling and then I get up in bed.
52. Fires and “deeds” and about the Sisters and girls.
68. The other night I dreamt this house was on fire and we had to jump out the window. (Did you get hurt?) No I ran out the door. I dream that I’m late to school.
54. I dreamed about the Sisters and the girls. I dream about men and ladies.
55. Last night I dreamed I was with my brother, and my mother was sick, and I came out here alone.
66. I dream that I am going home and I wish I could. And dream that fairies come and everything.
57. Yes ma’am, I dream that I’m home, that I’m not here. I dream that I am having so much fun with my sister. And sometimes I am here and cry and out in the yard.
58. Clock. One time I had a clock. It broke.
59. About being with father and mother and sister and aunt.
60. Yes, that I was going to have my tonsils out and that they put me on the operating table.
61. Dreamed last night that 8 girls had to sleep in one bed. I had to sleep with 3 girls and they made me fall and I called Sister and she told me to sleep in another bed.
62. Last night I dreamed I was home with my mother and she brought us back here.
63. Sometimes you dream that your mother is dead.
64. Sometimes I dream about my mother and about children here.
65. You dream that you had a pair of skates and you wanted to trade it for a lavallier and the girl did it and then she wanted her lavallier back.
66. Dreamt I was playing with girls and went for a ride. Saw a girl who was operated on, and I thought I saw a girl with tonsils out and she was throwing up water.
67. Skipping from mountain top to top. Landed on top of a cross on steeple.

Dreams of Boys

1. About tramps, cats, dogs. Some water.
2. You dream about your father, your uncle’s death or something. Dream every night.
8. About your families. When your talking something good in day time you dream at night.
4. Sometimes you dream about horses, you’re riding on ’em. Sometimes you dream about fairiesthey’re flying through the air.
5. I dreamed that an angel was by my bed.
6. I dream about some angels up in the sky all round my bed. Dreamt of falling down in big hole.
7. I dreamt we was playing ball. I dreamt about the head of our Lord.
8. About my friends.
9. Dreamt last night about my mother, but my mother’s dead. My father said that box is so hot it makes people come out, and my mother came out and she was no bigger’n me. (another dream) A boy, I hit his head and smashed it.
10. Dreams of falling.
11. Have ’em every night. I lit in a machine, there was a motorcycle. I thought my father came back to earth, and I said “Hurry up Daddy, the motor cop is chasing me.”
12. At night you see all kinds of things and it seems like it is true. I was up in the mountains and got in a blast. The fire shot way up in the air and the rocks came down and went right over me and didn’t hurt me.
13. Me and another boy was going for a joy ride and coming full speed with an auto and couldn’t stop it.

Kate Gordon, “Dreams of Orphan Children.” Journal of Delinquency Vol. VIII, No. 1 (January, 1923); I have edited out some racial slurs.

Image: “National Apple Week at Washington Orphanage.” November 5, 1925. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. (source)

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