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The Butter Box Babies

Something horrible took place between 1920 and 1940.

The butter box babies are a sad but true fact that happened in Nova Scotia beginning in 1920. It was a home for wayward girls (pregnant unmarried women) and young married women. It was run by William and Lila Young who were in charge of a maternity home. She was deemed to have been an obstetrician when all she was is a midwife and her husband claimed to have been a Chiropractor. The horrors that took place in this home are embedded in some people’s memories until today. Some of the horrors weren’t revealed until many years after the home was closed down.

They advertised it as being the ideal home which was located in East Chester, Nova Scotia, Canada. The home promised that they would give maternity care for local married couples and discreet pregnancies. The children that were born out of wedlock were promised that their babies would have the finest of home placements that could be found. It was not known at the time but Lila and William had a very profitable business going with the selling of the babies that were born out of wedlock. Most of these children were sold to the US.

At the time the US forbid adoptions across religious backgrounds which caused an acute shortage of babies especially for Jewish people. This is where William and Lila Young stepped up to the plate and sold the black market babies for as high as $10,000. It was found out later that most of these babies ended up in New Jersey in Jewish homes. The income didn’t stop there, in spite of what they were selling the babies for, they also charged the mothers of these babies $500.00 for the privilege of having their baby born there.

Some people back then would find great difficulty in trying to accumulate the money as the wages were only $8.00 a week. If the bill couldn’t be paid then the girls were put to work in the home to pay the bill while they waited to have their babies, sometimes this work went well beyond the time of having their babies and some girls had to stay up to eighteen months to work it off.

In Halifax, Nova Scotia, a major port during the war, in World War II business was booming. There were always ships coming and going and the sailors would squeeze as much life out of their stop over as they could which ended in unwanted pregnancies. The Ideal Maternity Home was the girl’s only option in that area at the time. It was the only place that could provide help for the mothers and babies as well.

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User Comments
  1. Christine Ramsay

    On January 29, 2009 at 8:47 am

    What a terrible and heartbreaking story. How can anyone treat babies like that? A very well written piece.


  2. Joni Keith

    On January 29, 2009 at 9:17 am

    What a horrible thing. Thank God for people like Dr. Davis who had enough social and moral conscience to bring attention to what was going on in that place. I had never heard this story before. You did a wonderful job presenting the facts here, Yaffel. Very well written.

  3. rutherfranc

    On January 29, 2009 at 10:42 am

    I agree, very horrible.. let us say a prayer right now for those babies..

  4. yaffel

    On January 29, 2009 at 11:11 am

    Yes rutherfranc, those little ones need our prayers. I found it very difficult writing on this and almost changed my mind. Most of these kids still live in the New Jersey area and is still searching for thier birth mothers. Some have found their families and twins have been reunited not knowing before that they were a twin. Sad very sad.

  5. Mythili Kannan

    On January 29, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    I couldn’t tolerate my tears :(

  6. C Jordan

    On January 29, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    Well written. I had never heard of this case before.

  7. nobert soloria bermosa

    On January 29, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    horible indeed,may they find peace,thanks

  8. bjr

    On January 29, 2009 at 3:18 pm


  9. Anne McNew

    On January 29, 2009 at 6:24 pm


  10. Westbrook

    On January 29, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    I think I knew something about this but very little. There are always heartless people who will prey on others for money.

  11. denus

    On January 29, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    thats absolutely horrible.

    but nice article.

  12. nrm

    On January 30, 2009 at 6:21 am

    To think they were never truly punished for their evil acts, it’s disgusting! It makes you wonder if things like this go on today, somewhere else in the world? I hope not…

  13. Yovita Siswati

    On January 30, 2009 at 6:54 am

    horrificc! I can’t believe they treat babies like that! This is so immoral. Thanks for sharing the facts Yaffel.

  14. Juhls

    On January 30, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Wow. A very sad, amazingly harsh and surreal history. But a well done telling of it by you, yaffel.

  15. Ruby Hawk

    On January 31, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    What an interesting case of crime and abuse. So many things go on right under our eyes that we never know about. Some horrors are hidden forever. It is mind boggleing the things that eventually do come out.

  16. Clay Hurtubise

    On January 31, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    WOW! What a story, thanks for bringing it to everyones attention.

  17. Majic

    On February 1, 2009 at 11:15 am

    Brrr… sends shivers down my spine! This is my best read today! Thanks for sharing!

  18. Vickie C Jordan

    On February 1, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    I had never heard anything about this Yaffel. It is true tho, what goes around, comes around. They both reaped the horrible death they sowed into the lives of others. Thanks for sharing. Vickie

  19. Ro Marie

    On February 6, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Wow, I had never heard of this particular case. What a tragedy. Thanks for writing about this.

  20. Linda

    On July 3, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    “Back in 1933 the Young’s found a thorn in their side by the name of Dr. Frank Roy Davis. He had heard some rumors about the home and for the next fifteen years he was relentless to find out the truth of what was really taking place there. In 1933 the Young’s were made hire their first Registered Nurse. The pressure on the Youngs was mounting.”

    Interesting that this is the same year my grandmother was placed in the home to give birth to my mom. My mom’s grandfather was Blois, the employer of Frank Davis.

  21. Dwayne MacKinley Colp

    On December 29, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    I am a survivor of the Ideal Maternity Home. Born there in August, 1945. Many others from the home were adopted by Jewish families from New Jersey, and grew up in the same area, not knowing of our common heritage. Through the internet we found out about the horrors of the place we were born. There have been many reunions (homecomings) and we now communicate regularly. The man who facilitated these reunions, as well as many birth family reunions, recently passed away. Bob Hartlen was also adopted from East Chester, and had a web site that helped me discover my origins. Sadly, now it seems gone.
    I am one of the lucky ones, and I’m grateful every day for being alive. There is a memorial at the site dedicated to the babies.
    Pray for the ones that didn’t survive.

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