Where my research takes me: baby cages

Internet searches are the oddest things. This time, I wasn’t doing research for the next Concordia Wells mystery (although in another post I’ll have to share with y’all some cool stuff I’ve learned about 1890s East Hampton, Long Island).

This time, I was researching catios.

What is a catio, and what does it have to do with baby cages?

Okay, getting to that.

First, my cat. Tora is a rescue and we care for her as an indoor cat. Not only is it part of the terms of our adoption agreement with the ASPCA, but it’s safer for her. Besides the usual foxes, skunks, raccoons, and other wildlife, we have a colony of feral cats in the woods behind our house and a domesticated cat next door with feline AIDS. Plus our little gal’s only seven and a half pounds fully grown. She’d be outmatched in a fight.

Tora, sitting IN the window ledge, looking at me plaintively. You can see the fur sticking through the screen, LOL.


Enjoying the sun.

The problem is, she LOVES being outside. It’s obvious her previous owners who gave her up (pregnant and unvaccinated) let her go out whenever she wanted. In nice weather we bring her out to the backyard in her harness (which she can easily slip out of, even the smallest one we could find), and we give her plenty of inside window perches. She loves both, but we know she’s pining for more. So I started looking at protective outdoor options, including a deep, screened-in window box. These, along with larger, screened enclosures for the outdoors have become known as catios: “cat” + “patio.”

Image via, where you can purchase plans to build your own.

On to baby cages:

In one of the articles about these window enclosures, it mentioned that similar contraptions were used for babies in the 1930-50s.

Huh? Was that really a thing? I mean, I grew up in an age where moms held their babies in their laps during car rides, seat belts were optional (and air bags? ABS? Lane departure alert? Sci-fi stuff), kids roamed the streets unsupervised until dinnertime, and parents took their kids on chickenpox play dates, so hey, anything’s possible. I did a bit of poking around.

It turns out that, yes, they were used, but not widely, and mostly in high-rise London tenements in the 1930s. (By the way, there’s no evidence of any reported deaths from these things. Whew). Emma Reed in 1922 applied for a patent for her own design.

I’d love to be able to show you the pics, but they are all copyrighted. However, here’s a British Pathe clip about baby cages. Looks like it was filmed in the post-war ’40s or early ’50s, I can’t confirm the date. Be warned, it’s kinda corny, with a gazillion goofy puns:

But why suspend babies in cages out the window in the first place?

I had the same question!

The answer is an intriguing one, and led me back to the time period of my own novels, the 1890s (funny how that happens). In 1894, L. Emmett Holt, MD published The Care and Feeding of Children (reprinted 8 times between 1894 and 1917). He advocated the liberal “airing” of young children to promote good health.

Fresh air is required to renew and purify the blood, and this is just as necessary for health and growth as proper food.

Care and Feeding of Children (Google Books, 1917 edition)

To be fair, nowhere in the book does Dr. Holt suggest hanging babies in cages out the window–his advice was confined to opening windows to air out the nursery and taking babies out in strollers–but you know how people can be…if a little is good, more must be better! And it had to be tough for moms in upper-level apartments (no elevators) to climb down the stairs with baby and stroller in tow.

So here’s a fun story: among the mothers who took Dr. Holt’s advice about infant airing to heart was Eleanor Roosevelt, after the birth of her first child, Anna. Here’s the passage, as recounted in Hazel Rowley’s Franklin and Eleanor: an Extraordinary Marriage (2010):

Wow. Makes growing up in the ’70s seem pretty tame. *wink*

Want to read more?

A Brief and Bizarre History of the Baby Cage

This is Real: The Baby Cage | Apartment Therapy

The Intriguing History of 1930s Baby Cages


Ever had an internet search take you in a bizarre direction? What child-rearing fads do you remember? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,


P.S. – we haven’t decided yet about the “catio.” Stay tuned.

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New Year, New Cat, and a Giveaway!

New Year, New Cat, and a Giveaway!

Happy New Year, everyone! Don’t worry, the cat isn’t part of the giveaway. She’s too adorable.

The Cat

Meet Tora, the newest member of our household (Tora is Japanese for “tiger”). When she’s not stalking squirrels and birds through the windowpane, she’s settled in my lap as I write. Sort of a furry critique-partner.

I can see this draft is going to need a LOT of work...

I can see this draft is going to need a LOT of work…

This is our first time as cat owners (or does the cat own us? We seem to serve as her wait staff).

My job as cozy mystery writer seems more official now, don’t you think? *wink* After all, mystery writers such as Raymond Chandler, Stephen King, Patricia Highsmith, Edgar Allan Poe, and Martha Grimes have had kitties. Cats and mystery-writing seem to go together, as evidenced by the successful cat mystery series of Lillian Jackson Braun, Rita Mae Brown and Carole Nelson Douglas.

Even before Tora came along, I had written a cat into book 2 of my Concordia Wells Mysteries, Unseemly Pursuits. Surprisingly, Concordia herself is not a big fan of cats, though the creatures take particular delight in jumping into her lap and kneading her skirts. The lady professor may have to put up with more cats in the future.

The Giveaway

To celebrate the release of the latest Concordia Wells Mystery, Unseemly Ambition, I’ve been holding a giveaway, which started October 14th and ends January 31st. There’s still time to get your name in! I’ll be announcing the winners on February 6th.




  • signed bookmarks (30 entrants with a United States postal address)
  • a Jelly Belly custom jelly bean tin, with a cover from one of the books (3 winners)
  • ebook copies  of Unseemly Ambition (4 winners)
  • copies of the just-released audiobook version of Dangerous and Unseemly (2 winners)
  • collaborate with the author on a name and a physical trait for a character in book 4, Unseemly Haste, with attribution in the Acknowledgments (2 winners)

Grand Prize:

Signed copies of all three books in the series so far: Dangerous and Unseemly (book 1), Unseemly Pursuits (book 2), and Unseemly Ambition (book 3).

*Please note that for any of the winners living outside the United States or Canada, I may have to substitute a gift card to Amazon because of the prohibitive postage for certain items. It will depend on the prize.


Tora is wearing her skeptical look…what, you haven’t entered the drawing yet?

How to enter for the random drawing (choose any/all of these to enter multiple times):

1. subscribe to my newsletter (those who have already subscribed will have their names automatically entered);

2. write a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or BN for any of my books, then send me the link either in an email:, or by posting it here in the comments section (your name will be entered TWICE for each review!). If you’ve already left me a review in the past, drop me a line to confirm that you want me to enter your name in the giveaway, again either in the comments or email;

3. send me a pic of yourself with any of my books (on your e-reader or in print)…or, if you feel camera-shy, send me a pic of one of my books “in the wild.” I’d love to see where Concordia has traveled to! I’ll also post them on my Unseemly Readers page;

4. leave a comment on any post written between October 14th and January 31st.

Remember, your name can be entered more than once, so participating in multiple ways will increase your chances of winning, and it helps me out enormously! I am, as ever, so grateful for your support, and I love connecting with you all.

Concordia logo FINAL smallGood luck, and thanks so much!


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