How Did We Miss This One?
In any good Orphanage of Fear
or boarding school, especially one for girls, there will probably be one of these—a wicked governess or headmistress who delights in frightening and tormenting the children under her care. Under her, meals are small and usually served cold, matresses are hard, and punishments are severe.
Among the various children in the orphanage, she may or may not have a particular target for her oppression. She is marked by her cold demeanor and lack of feeling. She often seems to have no concept of the fact that she is there to serve the children under her, and may insist that they serve her instead. Interestingly, this character is almost Always Female
- Miss Hannigan from Annie runs the orphanage where Annie lives. She drinks and mistreats the girls under her charge, telling them not to sing, and even having a whole song about how she hates little girls. Later she helps organize a plot to kidnap Annie for money. (At least before her Heel-Face Turn when Annie's life is in danger.)
- Miss Pritchard's orphanage in a Max Mercury story set in 1910s New York. Mrs P hates children, but gets money from the city to raise them. She also gets a cut from child-hating toymaker Archimedes Schott, for supplying him with cheap labour. And then she takes the kids' wages as well. When Schott tells her he's going to burn down his factory, because Max has pressurised him into giving the kids more rights, she decides to send them to work that day anyway. (And yes, Archimedes looks a lot like his presumed descendent, Winslow.)
- Granny Goodness from Apokolips could hardly be more inappropriately named, as her job is to brainwash the children in her orphanages into becoming servile, brutal slaves of Darkseid.
- Thursday's Child, by Noel Streatfeild. St. Luke's Orphanage is run by "Matron" who steals from the children to enrich herself, and is physically abusive. After she leaves, it becomes an Orphanage of Love, due to the influence of Lady Corkberry.
- Miss Minchin from A Little Princess is all right at first, but as soon as it is revealed that Sara is an orphan, she turns her into a scullery maid with hardly any pay and shuts her up into a tiny attic, separated from all the other girls except one servant.
Live Action TV
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Honorhall Orphanage in Riften is run by a terrible old woman called Grelod the Kind. She constantly gives speeches to the kids about how worthless they are and that they wont be adopted, ever. The kids themselves tell you that beatings are frequent and snooping around the building reveals that there is a cell with shackles on the wall. The kind normally seen in prisons. Grelod also starves the children by giving them only one meal a day in the afternoon. She even keeps them from being adopted -- she's that much of a power-hungry Control Freak. It's so bad, that one of the kids escaped and tried to recruit The Dark Brotherhood to kill Grelod. You can pretend to be from the Brotherhood and kill Grelod yourself. The children will cheer and praise the Dark Brotherhood. Needless to say, the Dark Brotherhood is not happy about this.
- The Smallville version of Granny Goodness, who uses her cover as an orphanage manager to brainwash and train girls for a future assault on Earth by Darkseid.
- In an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer the frat house that Reily lives in is haunted by the spirits (not ghosts) of the kids who lived there when it was an orphanage; their caretaker, Mrs. Holt, abused them and punished them severely for doing anything even remotely sexual (like preening in front of a mirror to look nice).
- The Chipettes' backstory details their lives as young babies living in an Australian orphanage as the pets of a human girl named Olivia; the headmistress of the orphanage, Miss Grudge discovers they can sing, so she kidnaps them before Olivia is adopted, holds them hostage, and plans to exploit their singing talents for her own benefit. Luckily, they manage to escape.
- Miss Hattie from Despicable Me runs a miserable orphanage where the children are forced to sell cookies but she keeps all the profits. If they don't sell enough they have to sit in a "box of shame".