October 16, 1931


The Depression was a hard time in America, so hard that it is beyond the imagination of most people born in later years. Then as now, Camden had its share of social problems, crime, and so on. In some ways the Camden of today is a lot SAFER than that of the 1920s and 1930s.... for instance, there were a lot of armed robberies in that time, a crime that is very, very rare in the city today.

This story is here not to pass judgment on any of the participants, we were not their, and the newspaper misspelled Anna's last name and had the address wrong. Several other people who were well known in Camden in those times are mentioned, and links to there pages are below. The policy on this site is to print everything, and let the reader come to their own conclusion, as opposed to the present approach to history in academic circles, which seems to be to print whatever statistics and other information that supports the foregone conclusion of the author.

 Read the story, and do e-mail me with comments, questions, corrections, and such! 

Phil Cohen
June 3, 2006

Camden Courier-Post - October 16, 1931

Anna Rickowska*

Ash Can Girl 'Out' Again;
Parents Held
Dad Who Took Her Rejoins Mother;
Anna Loses Home

Anna Rickowska*, 11-year-old child who lived for two weeks in an ash can has been driven from home again.

But Anna, profiling in a measure from her experience of only three days ago, will not sleep in an ash can this time.

She told her plight to Mrs. Louise F. Walsh, secretary of the Camden County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Anna's mother and father are under arrest and will face the child today in police court.

     It was only three days ago that Judge Pancoast placed Anna in her father's care. Her mother, he was unfit to care for her. The child had accused her of being a habitual drunkard.

And Anna was pleased by the decision. Her eyes glistening, her blond tresses tumbling about her head, she joyfully walked from the courtroom with her dad- the man who promised to be good to her.

Anna soon was disillusioned. The father and mother, who had been estranged, took up their lives together again. The girl was taken back to the home at 1401 Rose Street, the home she had been ordered from more than two weeks before.

Things became even worse than before. In her story to Mrs. Walsh last night, Anna declared that added to the abuse of a drunken mother was that of her father, Ignatius.

And finally, on Wednesday night, her parents beat her and threw her from the house.

She went· to the home of an aunt, Mrs. Minnie Blake, of 1213 Lansdowne Avenue, who cared for her until last night when she again sought out her benefactor of a few days ago.

According to Sergeant John Garrity and Patrolman Edward Suski, the child's parents had been drinking last night.

Anna remained at the home of the aunt until today and Judge Pancoast will make another decision as to who shall have her custody.

* Correct Spelling is Raczkowski
** Correct address is 1402 Rose Street

Camden Courier-Post - October 14, 1931


What a whale of a human interest story! That's the reporter's natural reaction to the tale of l1-year-old Anna Rickowska, who lived for two week with an ash can as her home.

Chased from home by a mother she says is a drunkard, Anna did not run to beg assistance. She started "on her own."

Where some children would have taken· the opportunity for a vacation from school, Anna did not miss a session. And so well did she maintain her personal appearance­ relying upon the school washroom- that her teacher did not believe the story of her plight ..

Finding the large ash can, she waited until dark to experiment with its usefulness as a lodging place. It was dirty, uncomfortable. But it protected her. With a natural pride, a bit of fear and some bewilderment, she made it her home rather than ask strangers to help. Only milk and bread did she beg.

For two weeks she managed. Wretchedly, pitifully- but she never flinched. She might still be using the ash can for a home had not a passerby seen her crawling into it the other night.

Now, fortunately, she will be cared for. In her father's custody, the authorities will keep tabs on her welfare. Her pathetic experience is over.

What Anna's averages are in school we do not know. For resourcefulness, however, she rates ace high.