Plays are about lies and at the end we figure out what is the lie.

David Mamet


A Ride on the Orphan Train
WHAT HAPPENED?  WHO LIED AND WHY?
Based on a true historical incident


Copyright 2011


Image from Leslie's Newspaper

 

 

A RIDE ON THE ORPHAN TRAIN

D.D. Anderson    

A FULL-LENGTH PLAY

 

 

CAST:

Sister Anna Michaella Bowen, 41, a Sister of Charity at New York Foundling Hospital

 

Sister Frances Liguori Keller, 60ís, a native of France, a Sister of Charity at New York Foundling Hospital, an original founder of the orphan hospital (has a Mediterranean look)

 

Sister Ann Aloysia Collins, 60ís, a Sister of Charity at the New York Foundling Hospital, an original founder of the orphan hospital

 

Margarita Chacůn, 26, an Anglo woman married to a Mexican-American miner in Clifton

 

Mr. George Whitney Swayne, mid 30ís, agent/factotum for the New York Foundling HospitalóAlso off-stage voices, judgeís voices

 

Mr. Eugene S. Ives, 46, Attorney for the New York Foundling Hospital

 

Mr. Warren Bennett, Attorney for the Clifton defendants

 

 

THE TIME: January 1905

THE PLACE: Arizona, at the Arizona Territorial Supreme Court

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SETTING: The stage is separated into two parts. One part is a courtroom-like setting with a courtroom chair used by witnesses, a podium and desks for use by the two opposing attorneys and three chairs for the nuns to observe the proceedings. The United States flag is prominently displayed, but no judges can be seen. There will be some objections the audience with the aid of the attorneys and an off-stage voice and sound effects will understand what is going on.

 

In 1905 the American flag had five fewer states, as Arizona, New Mexico, Hawaii, Alaska and Oklahoma were not yet states.  

On some occasions noises (sound effects) can be heard from the court observers and the gaveling of a judge as well as an off-stage judicial voice.

 

The other part of the stage is in the bare style of courtroom anteroom with a window, an Arizona scenic painting such as the Grand Canyon, chairs and a table to the side with a pitcher of water and some glasses. In the back will be a door leading to the hallway and the courtroom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACT 1 SCENE 1

(Darkness on both parts of stage. Three female voices can be heard singing Pater Noster, the Our Father Prayer in Latin off stage as the lights softly rise  on the court anteroom. Three nuns in Sisters of Charity habits enter through a door in the back and sit. They speak the last line of the prayer in English and elongate the last word and note.)   

                                                

ALL THREE WOMEN

(See attached music)

Pater noster qui es in caellis sanctificťtur nomen tuum; advťniat regnum tuum; fiat volķntahs tua, sicut in caelo, et in terra.  Panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis hůdie; et dimŪte nobis dťbita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitůribus nostris.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil--  

(All three women remain seated with their heads bowed in reverence for a moment and make the sign of the cross as the lights come fully up.)

  SISTER FRANCES L. (With a French accent)

 Sister Anna Michaella, are you frightened?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

We are in Godís hands.

 

SISTER FRANCES L.

I know, but Iíve never given testimony before.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

We donít do this for ourselves, Sister Frances. We do this for the children.

 

 SISTER FRANCES L.

Oui----

Itís been a long time.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

 Over three months and one dead

SISTER FRANCES

Dreadful 

SISTER ANN A.

Murdered more likely.

SISTER ANNA M.

Murdered?

 

SISTER ANN A.

I saw how they acted.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

With Godís help weíll find out. Itís my responsibility to get those children back.

(The door to the room opens and a robust jovial man dressed in a black suit, a high collar shirt with a prominent mustache enters.)

 

E.S. IVES

Sisters, weíre ready. Sister Anna Michaella, youĎll be my first witness. Donít be

alarmed by anything said by the opposing attorney. Weíve a strong case and weíll win.

SISTER ANNA M.

Are you certain?

 

E.S. IVES

When one argues a case in front of four Arizona Supreme Court Judges anything can happen.  But we will get an excellent result. After all, we have the law on our side.

 

SISTER ANN A.

Arenít all cases a fifty percent chance? One side always loses.

 

IVES

The President of the United States, Teddy Roosevelt, has come out publicly supporting our cause.

(Sister Anna Michaella gets up.)

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Mr. Ives, thank you for accepting our case.  

   

SISTER FRANCES L.

To have someone who has your education, Georgetown College and Columbia Law School.

IVES

Nuns also educated me. How could I refuse?

 

SISTER ANN A.

But you did refuse---.

 

IVES

Ah.... yes.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Why?

 

IVES

At the time my caseload seemed overwhelming, but as you know God works in mysterious ways.

 

SISTER ANNA M

Yes.

IVES

The bailiff will escort you.

(Two nuns get up to follow Ives out of the room. The third, her head bowed is praying the rosary.)

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Sister Ann Aloysia, arenít you coming?

 

SISTER ANN A.

I shall stay here and pray for the children.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

A worthy endeavor, but we need to show everyone in court, a solidarity of purpose.


(Pause)

 

SISTER ANN A.

Very well, but I will continue my rosary.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Much needed.  Let me help you.


(She goes over to help her.)

 

SISTER ANN A.

Iím perfectly capable of getting up.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Of course

SISTER ANN A.

(Struggles to get up.)

Then thereís my tendency toward pride.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

 (Rushes over to help her.)

Or total faith in Godís protection

 

SISTER ANN A

I will continue the rosary.

 

IVES

If you need any help Sister, an officer of the court is just outside.


(She doesnít answer, but makes the sign of the cross with her rosary and then kisses the cross and exists.)

 

IVES

Sister Anna Michaella, a moment 

SISTER ANNA M.

Yes.

 

IVES

Remember, we are here to defend the New York Foundling Hospital and its rights concerning the orphans, nothing else.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

I donít understand.

IVES

It may never come up, but defend only yourself and the Foundling Hospital. Come theyíre waiting.  

(They exit as the lights darken in the anteroom.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACT 1

Scene 2

(Both sides of the stage remain dark for a moment and an off stage voice can be heard intoning the swearing-in oath.  As the lights go up, Sister Anna Michaella stands before the witness chair.)

 

OFF STAGE VOICE

Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?

 

SISTER ANNA MICHAELLA

I do.

(She sits. Standing at the podium is Attorney Eugene S. Ives. Seated at one of the desks in Mr. Warren Bennett, opposing attorney)  

E.S. IVES

State your full name.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Sister Anna Michaella Bowen.

 

IVES

What are your responsibilities at The New York Foundling Hospital?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Besides taking care of the children, Iím assistant secretary for the Foundling Hospital and take care of all the financial affairs for our institution. We provide housing, care and schooling for nineteen hundred orphans.

 

E.S. IVES

This necessitates handling millions of dollars, does it not?

 

 

W. BENNETT

Objection, leading the---

 

E.S.IVES

Iíll rephrase---What kind of finances are involved with running a Foundling Hospital?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

We provide two hundred and fifty pounds of meat, two hundred and seventy loaves of bread, thirty dozen eggs and a barrel of sugar daily for the children and hire as many as one thousand wet nurses for our infants.

 

BENNETT

Objection, irrelevant, we donít need this kind of recitation.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

I was asked to describe the kind...

 

IVES

Your honors, I wish to show Sister Anna Michaellaís leadership and administrative skills.

 

BENNETT

By making a grocery list.

(Audience applause.  Judge gavel)

 

OFF-STAGE JUDGE VOICE

Order in the court.  Objection sustained.

 

E.S. IVES

How long have you been associated with the Foundling Hospital?

 

SISTER ANNA MICHAELLA

Twenty-one years

 

E. S. IVES

During the latter part of September 1904, what were you asked to do?

   

SISTER ANNA M.

Two nuns and myself, four nurses, and our agent were to go by train and take forty orphans to two mining towns in Arizona. We take children between the ages of two and five on what we call an orphan train to adoptive parents with the understanding---

 

IVES

Sister Anna Michaella---

 

SISTER ANNA M.

I am not finished. ---that we continue final authority over these children until they are eighteen.

Every year we assign out about four hundred and seventy-five children.

 

E.S. IVES

Thank you. May I remind you to confine yourself to answering only the question I have asked--- What happened on Saturday, October 1st, 1904?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Iím sorry. But we were never given a chance to explain ourselves. I want to give you my impression of---

 

IVES

What I desire are the facts not impressions. What happened next?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

We arrived in Clifton about 6:30 pm.  We had made arrangements to give out those children who had been assigned to homes of good Catholics by the Pastor of Sacred Heart Church, Father Mandin---

 

E.S. IVES

What did you observe?

 

SISTER ANN M.

Everything outside was shrouded in a sort of haze, but I saw a group of women wearing shawls and some other women wearing hats who were pushing their way through the crowd. I was concerned.

 

E. S. IVES

What happened next?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Our agent, Mr. Swayne, brought Father Mandin on board.

 

E.S.IVES

And?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

He was younger than I expected for a pastor. Father Mandin was substituting for the regular priest who was on an extended leave

.

 E.S. IVES

Would this matter?

 

SISTER ANNA M

No, but I was... surprised.

 

E.S. IVES

What did you do next?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Since the hour was late and only sixteen orphans had been assigned in Clifton and the rest would go to Morenci, a town some nine miles away up a steep, mountain path I decided to leave the others with the nurses in the car for that night. As we took the sixteen out of the car to the waiting wagons to take them to the church, some of these women with hats grabbed the children and carried them to the wagons.

 

E.S. IVES

Did this concern you?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

At the time I thought it was overly aggressive and when one of the women said, ĎIíll take this oneí I  was....

 

E.S. IVES

What did you do?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Nothing. Our agent said, ďNot now.Ē We went to the church. One of the women wearing a hat, I found out later, a Mrs. John Gatti, who now has our foundling, William Norton, in her possession-

 

MR. BENNETT

Objection, argumentative

 

SISTER ANNA M

Iím simply saying what everyone in this court, in Arizona and in this country knows.


(Rapping of gavel)

 

OFF-STAGE JUDICIAL VOICE

Objection overruled.  The witness may continue.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

She followed us, shoved her way into the church and held two children in her arms. She seemed determined to take at least one of our children.

 

E.S.IVES

Please Sister Anna Michaella, keep your answers to the point.  Did you do anything about her?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

No.

 

IVES

Why?

 

SISTER ANNA M

We were too busy checking each childís label which had their name, birthdate and family they were assigned to, while Father called the correct parent to come and take the child.

 

(Pause)

 

 In the dim light of the church, I noticed some of the mothers were darker skinned than we expected as Father Mandin had asked us for children who would be suitable for Spanish families. Since we...

 

E.S. IVES

Did you question Father Mandin about this?  

   

SISTER ANNA M.

Itís not proper for a nun to question a priest. I did go to him and say that he must inform

each mother that until we inspect the homes and interview the parents, none of these placements would be final. As soon as all sixteen were placed, we returned to the train to spend the night. I remember feeling odd.

 

IVES

Odd?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Yes. There was this strange smell all over the town. It made me feel a little---

 

BENNETT

Objection, irrelevant information, strike as unnecessary

 

OFF-STAGE JUDICIAL VOICE

Sustained.

 

E.S. IVES

What happened the next day, Sunday, October 2nd?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

After their breakfast, we went in wagons to the rectory in Morenci. There we continued to give out children to the assigned parents, but-

 

E.S. IVES

But what?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

In the light of day I could see that some of these Spanish mothers seemed quite dark-skinned, although without Negro features.  I felt some of the children might look out-of-place with such mothers, so I refused to release nine of the twenty-four until the other nuns and the nurses and myself could interview and decide if the placements were---appropriate. A child doesnít need to look like the adoptive parents, but...

 

IVES

What did you do?

   

SISTER ANNA M.

It was late and we had nine children. I didnít feel that we could return to Clifton to start our home visits.

 

IVES

What arrangements did you make?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

I hired five rooms at the Morenci Hotel for the night and asked Mr. Swayne to see to the luggage while we settled the children.

 

IVES

Did anything else occur that day?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Yes. We had only been in the hotel for a short while, when I heard a commotion in the hall.  An officer of the law, Mr. Jeff Dunagan, was looking for our agent.  I asked him why. He said Mr. Swayne had made an error in placing the children with Mexican families and it was the wish of the people of Morenci that every child be removed at once.

 

E.S. IVES

Did you say anything?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Of course, I told him that Mr. Swayne doesnít have the authority to place children and if there had been an error I would be only too happy to take care of it.

 

E.S. IVES

Did you do that?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Not immediately. Back in the room Sister Frances called me to come to the window.

 

E.S.IVES

What did you see?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Outside there was a large crowd of people milling about and shouting. I ran back to the hall and told Mr. Dunagan that Father Mandin and Mr. Swayne would go immediately and collect the children and bring them to the hotel, which they did. When the children were settled, I said Mr. Swayne would accompany me now to Clifton to collect the other children.

 

E.S. IVES

Did you go to Clifton?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

No, Mr. Dunagan said that Mr. Swayne and Father Mandin could go but it was too late

for a woman to make such an arduous trip as it was beginning to rain. The Clifton children would be returned to us in the morning.

 

IVES

Did you go to Clifton the next day?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Yes, but the rain had made the road treacherous with horseshoe turns and sheer drops just inches from the sliding wheels.

 

IVES

Did you collect the children on Monday, October 3rd?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

No, it was awful.  Mr. Swayne told us that heíd been attackedÖ

 

MR. BENNETT

Objection, hearsay

 

OFF-STAGE JUDGEíS VOICE

Overruled.  Mr. Ives, you may continue.

 

IVES

Thank you, your honor.  Sister, what happened?

 

 

SISTER ANNA M.

The children were gone.

 

IVES

Gone where?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

 I donít know. Theyíd been kidnapped.

 

MR. BENNETT

Objection, inflammatory statement

 

E.S. IVES

I object to the objection, your honor.  Sister Anna Michaella had sixteen missing children. She didnít know where they were.  What should she think?

(Agitated noises of protest from people in the court.)

 

MR. BENNETT

The witness is jumping to a conclusion and creating a story that will be shown to be false.

 

(The sound of a gavel can be heard bringing order to the court.)

 

OFF-STAGE JUDICIAL VOICE

Objection sustained.

 

E.S. IVES

I will abide by the courtís ruling.

Sister Anna Michaella, what were you told about the Clifton children?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

We were told that a group of citizens ordered some of the officers to go to each Mexican

American home that night, in a pouring cold rain and take the children. It is providential that more children didnít die that night. Why did someone allow a little two-year old, Josephine Corcoran---?

(Pause, almost in tears) 

By the time weíd arrived all of the little ones had been given to Anglo families in Clifton.

 

We met with Sister Ann Aloysia who had been asked to stay in Clifton to start interview proceedings. Sister Ann said when she went down to the lobby of the hotel that morning, she watched the children being argued over by these Anglo women as if this was a clothing sale and no one would listen to her.

 

MR. BENNETT

Objection, hearsay

(Rapping of gavel)

 

IVES

We believe the evidence to be material.

 

OFF-STAGE JUDICAL VOICE

Overruled.

(Angry sounds from the audience.)

 

OFF-STAGE JUDICIAL VOICE

Order in the court.

 

IVES

Once again, thank your honor.  What were you told?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

There was going to be a meeting that afternoon presided over by a Judge Little who would contact our Superior, Sister Teresa Vincent, in New York to decide what should be done.

 

E.S. IVES

What followed?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

We found out that the judge would not arrive until evening. I didnít feel I could leave the children in Morenci alone that night.  Since a judge was in charge and Sister Superior would be contacted, I felt assured that everything would be settled in our favor so we returned to the hotel in Morenci and waited.

 

IVES

Waited for what?  

 

SISTER ANNA M.

We were told that as soon as the meeting was over we would be phoned at the hotel. We waited all evening.

 

IVES

Did anyone contact you?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

No. Finally at 11:45 pm we went down to the clerk to ask about the call and were told that Judge Little had decided that the children should remain where they were as they had been abandoned by us and that the children we had in Morenci would also be taken from us. We were horrified.

 

MR. W. BENNETT

Objection. I move that the answer be stricken as immaterial to the case before the court.

 

E.S. IVES

Stricken!  Your honors, the answer is pertinent to---


(Gavel raps)

 

OFF-STAGE JUDICIAL VOICE

Sustained.

E.S. IVES

(Resigned voice)

We will not press the issue at this time.

Sister, I realize this is hard for you but please tell the court what happened next.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

It is hard, but Iím here for the children.  The next morning on the 4th, Mr. Swayne told us he was ordered by the officers to leave town as his life was in danger.

 

MR. W. BENNETT

Objection. The conversation between the witness and a party not connected with this matter is purely hearsay.

 

E.S. IVES

May it please the court, this absolutely bears on what happened to separate the children from the New York Foundling Hospital.

 

OFF-STAGE JUDICIAL VOICE

Overruled

 

IVES

Sister Anna Michaella when the officers arrived, describe in your own words what happened?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

We told them that we would not leave the children even if it meant risking our lives.

 

IVES

Were you frightened?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Yes

 

IVES

Yet you were willing to sacrifice your lives for these children?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Yes

 

IVES

What children were you referring to, the ones in Morenci or the ones in Clifton?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

All of them.

 

IVES

The officers then left.

 

MR. BENNETT

 Objection! Leading.

 

IVES

Iíll rephrase.  What did you do?

 

 

SISTER ANNA M.

The officers came back later and said they had authorization by the authorities in Morenci and Mr. Swayne to remove three children to be placed with friends.  If we didnít agree, the train engineer would not run the train to take us away.

 

E.S. IVES

Were you given anything in writing?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

No. But they had guns. We felt we had no choice. By now we realized that the citizens of these towns thought that since we gave the children to Mexican American families, we were not real nuns but slave traders who were selling children.

 

E.S. IVES

Did you do anything to explain who you were and what you did?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

I tried to.

IVES

Did you distribute any other children in Arizona?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

No, Sir.

 

IVES

Any in New Mexico

 

SISTER ANNA M.

No

IVES

Any along the Mexican border

 

SISTER ANNA M.

No. These questions are ridiculous.

We were not selling children!  

 

IVES

What prompted you to bring the children here?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Our agent, Mr. Swayne had written to the pastor of the Sacred Heart Church and told him we had children to be placed in good homes.

 

IVES

What answer did you receive back?

 

MR. WARREN BENNETT

I protest. The court has stated that it is interested in hearing testimony for the purpose of determining what is in the best interest of these children. We will show that the homes were not good.


(Gavel rapping)  

IVES

Your honors, opposing counsel can have his opportunity in cross to protest.

 

OFF-STAGE JUDICIAL VOICE

Allowed.  Please continue, Mr. Ives.

 

IVES

How did the priest respond?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Father Mandin wrote back and said the homes were all good homes and the people were all good Catholics and fit and able to look after the children as most of them had no children of their own.

 

IVES

Did you have any trouble leaving Morenci?

 

MR. BENNETT

Objection, leading

 

IVES

Iíll rephrase.  Did anything else happen in Morenci?  

 

SISTER ANNA M.

People from Morenci barged into our rooms. Our doors had no locks.  The men were flourishing guns and the women were screaming at us. They said we were doing a great injury to these orphans selling them to Mexicans. I told them they were being unreasonable and if they thought we were selling children for four to six dollars apiece after we had spent fifteen hundred dollars to bring them here they were also quite foolish. Finally Mr. Mills arrived.

 

IVES

Mr. Mills?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

The Superintendent of the mining camp in Morenci

 

IVES

What happened then?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

We explained to Mr. Mills that we would be only too happy to rectify any confusion. He told us we could leave Morenci under his supervision with our twenty-one children. He also said he had no authority over what was going on in Clifton.

 

IVES

Were you able to leave Morenci with the children?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Yes. But not with the three who had already been taken. We couldnít find them.

 

IVES

After arriving in Clifton, how long did you stay?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

A short while, we hoped that since we were allowed to take most of the children in Morenci and in spite of what Judge Little had said, cooler more reasonable heads would prevail in Clifton and weíd be able to recover the Clifton orphans.  

 

IVES

Were you allowed to take the Clifton children?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

No.

 

IVES

Were you allowed to see or talk to the children?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

No.

 

IVES

Were you allowed to meet the people who had taken the children?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

No.

 

IVES

What did you do then?

 

ANNA M

(Pause)

We were afraid for our lives, so the next day at 7:00 am, we got on the train, with the little ones we had, and left.

 

IVES

At this time, may it please the court we have no further questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACT ONE

Scene 3

(Lights fade to dark and come up on the court anteroom.  The three nuns and Ives enter.  Everyone sits except Ives. Sister Ann A. is still praying the rosary.  There is a moment of prayerful silence.)  

IVES

Sister Anna Michaella, I think that went rather well.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

I donít like that Mr. Bennett. Why didnít you press that question about what is in the best interest of these children? We are in the best interest...

 

IVES

My goal was to get a clear progression of events.

I wish this case was not getting all this national attention in newspapers and magazines.  Believe me the publicity is not painting you in a good light.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Why?

 

IVES

You gave fair looking children to Mexicans.

Now Mr. Warren Bennett will cross-examine you, please, keep your answers limited and simple.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

If weíre being represented as villains, I must tell as much of what happened as possible.

 

IVES

It doesnít matter.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Why?

 

IVES

The legal issue here is that according to New York State law, The Foundling Hospital has jurisdiction over these orphans. The rest is legal posturing. To bring up anything else, light skin, dark skin, inappropriate homes, none of this matters, it merely inflames a situation we want to keep calm and pleasant.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Why should I be calm and pleasant, these children were abducted and forcibly taken from our care. I want to shout from the rooftops that a great wrong has been done.

 

IVES

Why donít you use this time to rest yourselves?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

I find it puzzling that these Anglo Americans should have such hostility toward Mexican

Americans. After all we are all Godís children.

 

IVES

 I see youíve only been provided with water and glasses. Quite unacceptable! Iíll be happy to order tea.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

No, thank you.

 

IVES

Perhaps some cake

 

SISTER ANNA M.

No.

 

IVES

Very well, then---A bailiff is available outside the door if you need anything. Rest yourselves. I must go and confer with my colleagues.

 

(Exits, Sister Francis gets up and pours water for those who signal a wish.)

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Rest! I have not rested for the last three months. If only we had been listened to---

 

SISTER FRANCIS L

The color of Mexican American skin matters a great deal here, doesnít it?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

They wonít listen.

 

SISTER ANN A.

(Looks up from her rosary, kisses the cross and says)

Father

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Thank you, Sister Ann for praying the Our Father.

 

SISTER ANN A.

(Shakes her head, no)

 

SISTER FRANCES

Are you praying about Father Mandin?

(Shakes her head, yes.  The nuns look at each other puzzled.)

 

SISTER ANNA M.

What about him?

 

SISTER FRANCES L.

His skin itís the same color as most of the Mexicans.

 

SISTER ANN A.

Ah yes.  Heís from France, very Latin in appearance like most from the Mediterranean regions.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

He wrote us he wanted fair children, no Negroes, Indians or Chinese, so we gave him

 

Irish children. Had we known we would have brought children of Latin ancestry.

 

SISTER FRANCES

He considers himself fair.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

I see.

(Pause)


Father wrote that the people were of Castilian ancestry and Castilians have Celtic/Irish roots.

 

SISTER FRANCES

All Castilians from the Mediterranean consider themselves fair.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Then why are people here stirring up such a fuss? Many of the Mexican families we gave the children to had the same skin color as Father Mandin. Sister Ann Aloysia, is that what you meant?

 

SISTER ANN A.

(She nods, yes while continuing to pray.)

 

SISTER FRANCES

Thanks be to God, Father wasnít being irresponsible.

 

SISTER ANN A.

He did what made sense to someone who had recently arrived from France.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Does any of this matter? Why so much hostility toward these Mexican Americans? To say that we were doing an injury placing these children with them is unacceptable. We would never injure a child.

 

SISTER ANN A.

 Power and prestige can encourage sin.

 

SISTER FRANCES

Donít you find it strange that most of these good Catholic Mexican families have no children? Almost forty Catholic couples without children, but then these Anglo women donít seem to have any children either.                                                                                          

(A knock on the door and Ives enters.)  

IVES

Sisters itís time. Remember, Sister Anna Michaella, say as little as you can.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Mr. Ives, I now understand why the confusion, perhaps if I explain to the judges.

 

IVES

.Sister, perhaps later...come

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


ACT ONE

Scene 4

(Lights down on anteroom and up on courtroom.  Sister Anna Michaella is seated in the witness chair.  Mr. Warren Bennett is at the stand.  Mr. Ives is seated at the table.)

 

BENNETT

May I remind you Sister, that you are still under oath to tell the truth?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Yes.

 

BENNETT

Before these children left New York, arrangements had been made for placing them in good homes in Clifton and Morenci.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Yes, sir.

 

BENNETT

Each child had a label with the assigned parent pinned to its shoulder.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Yes, the label had the childís name because some of the children were too young to answer for themselves.

 

BENNETT

So the Foundling Hospital entirely trusted the recommendations of the local priest.

 

IVES

Objection, leading---

 

 

OFF-STAGE JUDICIAL VOICE

Sustained.

 

IVES

Thank you, your honors.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

We accepted Father Mandinís word.

 

BENNETT

Did you inquire about the qualifications of this young priest to judge these peopleís capability?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

This would not have been the correct procedure for me or any nun to do.

 

BENNETT

Sister Anna Michaella, do you personally know these foundlings?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Of course

 

BENNETT

You stated in your previous testimony that you have nineteen hundred children at the Foundling Hospital and over four hundred are placed with families. Are you going to sit here and tell this court that you know all these children?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

I know about them from our record books but the children we place in homes I personally know.

 

BENNETT

So you remember William Norton, the child you are trying to take away from Mr. and Mrs. Gatti?

 

IVES

Objection, we are trying to correct an illegal seizure.

 

 

BENNETT

I object to counselís objection.  The issue before the court is not an illegal seizure.

 

OFF-STAGE JUDICIAL VOICE

The court will not countenance legal skirmishes between opposing counsel.  Mr. Bennett, you may proceed.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Of course I remember William Norton.

 

BENNETT

How long have you known him?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

He has been at the Foundling Hospital since he was born.

 

BENNETT

With so many children about how could you be so sure?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

I saw him in the nursery. He had auburn hair and seemed a bright child. I personally picked him out to be placed with a family.

 

BENNETT

When was he born?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

I would need to refer to the record book for the exact date, but I believe it was in October

1901.

 

BENNETT

What became of the mother?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

I donít know.

   

BENNETT

When you were handing these poor waifs over to the Mexicans, did you see some give the priest money?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Yes.

 

BENNETT

So these children were sold.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Thatís absurd.

 

BENNETT

Mr. Ives, will you please control your client.

 

IVES

Sister Anna M---

 

SISTER ANNA M.

I will not be controlled when information is being wrongly interpreted. The so-called payment was to help defray the cost of hiring wagons to transport the little ones.

(Rapping of the gavel) 

Your honors, I certainly do not wish to offend, but Mr. Ives was not objecting enough.

 

BENNETT

Did you know that your agent told Mr. Jeff Dunagan that he refused to remove the children from Mexican families?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Mr. Swayne does not have the authority to remove or place our orphans.

 

BENNETT

Youíre avoiding my question, Sister. I will repeat it.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

I didnít know this and why do you keep calling them Mexicans when they are Americans?

 

BENNETT

Did you hear Mr. Dunagan tell Mr. Swayne he would have to leave town?í

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Yes, I did.

 

BENNETT

Did Mr. Dunagan say that you must also leave town?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Yes, and we had forfeited all claims to the children in Morenci and had abandoned the little ones in Clifton. Me, abandon a child! How dare anyone suggest such a thing!

 

IVES

I must object to the unfortunate term, abandoned. Perhaps we could use---placed temporarily.

                                                                                   

BENNETT

 I do not agree to counselís change of term.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

I would never abandon a child.

 

BENNETT

Sister Anna, please confine yourself to answering my questions.  Did Mr. Dunagan tell you that you had to leave?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Mr. Dunagan said he couldnít be responsible for Mr. Swayne any longer.

 

BENNETT

Did he threaten you or Mr. Swayne?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

What do you mean by threaten?

   

BENNETT

Please answer the question.

                                                                          

SISTER ANNA M.

Iím trying to.  When an officer of the law stands in front of me, with a gun in his belt, and tells me to get out of town and forfeit all rights---

 

BENNETT

Were you threatened?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

I intimated a threat.

 

BENNETT

Intimated?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Yes.

 

BENNETT

Did you allow the officials to take three of the orphans?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Mr. Swayne did.

 

BENNETT

In prior testimony you said Mr. Swayne had no authority to place out children and yet you agreed to allow this?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

 I did not agree.

 

BENNETT

 Did you protest?

   

SISTER ANNA M.

I should have said something, but I felt that they had the authority under Arizona law.

 

BENNETT

Answer the question, Sister?

 

IVES

Objection, badgering the witness

 

OFF-STAGE JUDICIAL VOICE

Sustained.

 

BENNETT

You did say in your prior testimony that you refused to give nine children to the Mexicans.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Mexican Americans.

 

BENNETT

Why did you refuse?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

I was concerned over the appearance of some of the families.

 

BENNETT

But these were families Father Mandin had chosen, were they not?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Yes.

 

BENNETT

Were you impressed with any of the Mexicans? Didnít you find them dirty and foul smelling?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

I object to such descriptions. Itís not my place to over-ride what Father Mandin said or did.

   

BENNETT

Why?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

I have taken a vow of obedience.

 

BENNETT

So you allowed these Mexicans to take the children

 

IVES

Objection, badgering the witness

(Rapping of gavel)

 

OFF-STAGE JUDICIAL VOICE

Sustained.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

I felt we must allow him to place the children until we could visit and see for ourselves if the homes and families would suit.

 

BENNETT

So you had objections from the start.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

I do not wish to offend but I would like to object to this form of questioning.

 

BENNETT

Mr. Ives have you not instructed your witness on courtroom protocol?

 

IVES

I will allow the court to judge the witnessís response.

(Rapping of gavel) 

BENNETT

Did any white people apply for the care and custody of the children?

   

SISTER ANNA M.

White people? Do you mean Anglos?

 

BENNETT

Anglos, then

 

SISTER ANN M.

No.

 

BENNETT

Did Mr. Mills, the Superintendent of the Mines, say you could leave with all the children, but three?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

He said we could leave with all of them, but we couldnít find the...

 

BENNETT

Please confine your remarks to a simple yes or no or a very short sentence.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

I apologize to the court but I must object. Iím here to have returned to the New York Foundling Hospital, children who are legally under our care.

(Rapping of the gavel)

BENNETT

Legally?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Yes. The State of New York has given us a legal right of guardianship over abandoned children. May I use the word here instead of---placed temporarily?

 

BENNETT

I donít object. How do you decide if theyíre abandoned?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

The mother must place the child in one of our beds, as a physical statement of release.

 

 

BENNETT

Is it the purpose of your hospital to find homes for homeless children?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Yes, Sir.

 

BENNETT

And was that the purpose for which these forty orphans were brought to the Territory of

Arizona?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

Yes, Sir.

IVES

Objection, the Articles of Incorporation by the State of New York give the Foundling Hospital the right to decide the proper homes.

 

BENNETT

So the only purpose is to find good homes for these children.

 

SISTER ANNA M.

YesÖwait a minute, we decide what constitutes a good home.

 

BENNETT

If the people who now have these children are furnishing them with good homes, what objection could the Foundling Hospital have to allowing the children to remain in the homes they are in now?

 

IVES

Objection, question immaterial

 

SISTER ANNA M.

I also object. Until our rights are resolved and these children have been returned to us I cannot answer such a question.  I do not have that authority, only our Superior, Sister Teresa Vincent, has such responsibility.

 

BENNETT

So the purpose of the hospital is to establish their rights rather than find good homes for these children.

(Cheers from unseen audience and gavel rapping for silence.)

 

OFF-STAGE JUDICIAL VOICE

Order in the courtroom..

 

SISTER ANNA M.

I donít like your question.

 

IVES

I object to the question in its present form.

 

BENNETT

Iíll rephrase.  Do you agree that Father Mandin was at fault in his choice of homes?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

(Struggles in a pause)

Perhaps. (Quietly)

 

BENNETT

Since you have objected to several of my questions would you like to elaborate on this last statement of yours?

 

SISTER ANNA M.

No.

 

BENNETT

I have no further questions.

 

 

 

 

 

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