FATHERLESS CHILDREN STORY 010
by Winsome Solo
This child was born in San Francisco, California in 1876 to a poor single mother. After he was born, she left him for a year in the care of another woman. During that year she met and married a widowed, partly disabled war veteran who had moved to California with two of his daughters, leaving the rest of his nine children elsewhere. The boy's mother earned money telling fortunes, and his stepfather did odd jobs. The family was poor, and moved from one rented apartment or shack to another. His primary caregiver was his stepsister. At a point, the family managed to buy a few acres of land, and started growing vegetables to sell.
By the time he was 12, the boy had to go to work part time in a cannery in addition to going to school. His life was mostly miserable but he loved reading. Whenever he had spare time, he read every book he could get his hands on: literature classics, adventure and travel stories, philosophy, sociology and even politics.
When he finished the 8th grade, he started working long hours full-time in the cannery. It was awful. Once he had to work 36 straight hours without sleep. To get out of this life, he borrowed some money from the woman who had cared for him as a baby, bought a small boat, and became a thief, stealing oysters from Oakland Bay and selling them.
In only a few months, however, he had ruined his boat, so he signed up to be a cabin boy on a seal hunting ship headed for Japan. During this voyage, he almost died in a typhoon. After returning, he worked in a jute mill and a power plant.
He became dejected about the miserable labor conditions at every job, so he stopped working and joined up with a group of activists seeking better working conditions. On one trip with this group, he landed in jail in New York for thirty days for being a "vagrant".
At age 17, he decided to go back to school. During the year it took him to complete a high school equivalency course, he started writing stories. He had plenty to write about already at this point! He entered a newspaper writing contest, and his story won, so he kept writing more.
After high school, he attended college for a short time, then left to seek his fortune in the Yukon Canada Gold Rush. He didn't find much gold, but he did gather more adventures to turn into stories to sell. He said:
"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."
For the rest of his life, he wrote no fewer than a thousand words a day. In addition to stories and novels, he wrote for newspapers and travel magazines. He also regularly spoke out about against bad labor conditions and worker exploitation.
When he was 27 years old he wrote a novel about a sled dog in the Yukon that became famous around the world. During his lifetime, he became the highest paid writer in the United States.
He married twice, and died in 1916 at the California ranch he shared with his second wife.
Most children, by the time they grow up, have read The Call of the Wild and White Fang, and maybe others of the many now-beloved stories written by
Jack London, a boy from a "fatherless home".
The term "fatherless" ("fatherlessness" or "father-absent") is used in this series as it is in research and "father absence" policy rhetoric by the U.S. government, DHHS, the National Fatherhood Initiative, U.S. states in connection with child custody law and policy, and various family values and fatherhood policy and lobbying groups. The effects of father absence can be seen in the fatherless children stories. Citations to research and studies on the effects of father-absence can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
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