The Armenian orphan’s garb as a silent witness of the Armenian Genocide horrors
The dress, most likely worn by a 7-year-old orphan girl or a boy, is a significant tangible remnant of the Armenian Genocide. It is possibly sewn from the pieces of fabrics of children who died in the desert. A close look at the dress makes you wonder what the children of the genocide went through and how only a handful resiliently survived, while most were butchered or faced the death of starvation or disease.
The dress belonged to an orphan who survived the Adana Massacre of 1909 and walked from Adana to Hadjin, roughly 75 miles. They found refuge at the United Orphanage and Mission in Hadjin, run by a North American Mennonite congregation.
In 1914 Sister Dorinda Bowman packed up the dress and an unfinished rug that the orphan girls had been weaving for her trip back to North America. The dress remained in her possession until she died in 1967. After her death, the 35″ by 58″ brown and gray wool rug, which is typical of Armenian rugs from the era, went to her nephew. When he passed away two years ago, it was donated to Bethel College. Though it’s unclear exactly how the dress ended up in the archives of the Mishawaka, Indiana school, Bethel is an evangelical college affiliated with the same Mennonite congregation that ran the Hadjin orphanage.