Created By: lilliterra on June 27, 2013 Last Edited By: lilliterra on July 14, 2013

Evil Orphanage Lady

A female caretaker of children is portrayed as cruel and abusive.

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Trope
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.

Theater

  • 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.)

Comic Books
  • 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.

Literature
  • 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.

Video Games
  • 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.

Live Action TV

  • 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).

Western Animation

  • 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".

Community Feedback Replies: 18
  • June 27, 2013
    UltramarineAlizarin
    Trunchbull is covered by Dean Bitterman, so I would advise against including her as a "sort-of" example here. Otherwise this will get misused for any sort of female authority figure cruel to children.

    Also, you should expand the examples you have to show what obviously evil behavior each of these women do.

    Here are some examples I harvested from Orphanage Of Fear:

    Comic Books
    • Mis 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.)

    Literature
    • 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.

    Video Games
    • 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.
  • June 27, 2013
    Astaroth
    Edit: nevermind, ninja'd by Ultramarine
  • June 27, 2013
    DennisDunjinman
    Evil Matriarch is sufficiently broad enough to cover it.
  • June 27, 2013
    lilliterra
    Maybe, but I think this spesific variation occurs enough to get a page as a subtrope.
  • June 29, 2013
    Larkmarn
  • June 29, 2013
    samitv
    The orphanage lady from Despicable Me 1? She makes all the kids sell cookies and keeps all the profits and if they don't sell enough she makes them sit in a box of shame.
  • June 29, 2013
    randomsurfer
    • 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 punished them severely for doing anything even remotely sexual (like preening in front of a mirror to look nice).
  • Western Animation
    • 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.
  • June 30, 2013
    KZN02
    Time Squad: Sister Thornley
  • July 1, 2013
    Melkior
    The Little Orphan Annie example should add (in spoiler):
  • July 1, 2013
    Melkior
    Also another comic book example:
    • 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.
  • July 1, 2013
    Chabal2
    The orphanage lady in The Goon is a drunken Child Hater.
  • July 1, 2013
    JonnyB
    The lady that runs the orphanage in Despicable Me, Ms. Hattie, is one of these.
  • July 2, 2013
    XFllo
    I would think that Child Hater could cover it, but if we gather enough distinctive examples, then sure, why not... I think this might be tropeworthy as a separate concept.
  • July 2, 2013
    Larkmarn
    I think this is a separate concept since it's a pretty specific juxtaposition of someone who's abusive to children running a place ostensibly to help them.

    The one that I think might cover it is actually simply Orphanage Of Fear, as this is essentially a character-based version of it.

    I still think it's distinct, though. I'm just afraid that almost all examples are going to simply be repeats from Orphanage Of Fear.
  • July 5, 2013
    lilliterra
    The Buffy the Vampire Slayer example doesn't fit, as far as I can tell. I can't add the examples from The Goon or Time Squad because I don't have enough information.
  • July 6, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Pherhaps I didn't explain it well, then. Here's a transcript of the scene where the Buffy crew find out from the orphanage lady herself her behavior. [I certainly don't expect the quote to be in the article, I'm just trying to explain my example better.]
    MRS. HOLT: Some got the flu and such. No one died if that's what you mean. The engraving on the medal says how good I was with the children.
    GILES: Yes.
    MRS. HOLT: Treated them as I would have my own flesh and blood. Gave them hugs and praise when they were good. Punished them when they were dirty.
    GILES: Kids will be kids. They like to play in the muck.
    Mrs. Holt regards Giles like he's daft.
    ANYA: You... didn't mean muddy-dirty?
    MRS. HOLT: My kids didn't think I knew. But I did.
    The group regards each other, getting creeped out.
    GILES: Very, uh, perceptive of you.
    MRS. HOLT: Without me, they would have been shut out of the Kingdom, lost to lust.
    GILES: But you "helped" them.
    MRS. HOLT: (nods) The girls fell to vanity more than the boys. I'd see them preening like Jezebel, doting over their pretty hair.
    XANDER: (gets it/angry) So you'd hack it off.
    MRS. HOLT: (sternly) I'd remove the temptation to admire themselves. They were better for it.
    ANYA: What about the bathtub? Something happened there.
    MRS. HOLT: I performed Baptisms for the most unclean. Those who were tainted with impure thought and deed.
    GILES: You held them under.
    Mrs. Holt stands now. Shaking with anger.
    MRS. HOLT: They needed to be reborn. You choose to pass judgment on me?
    Giles stands too, his anger as strong as hers.
    GILES: Well, someone ought to. You traumatized and abused these children, who are now, may I add, undoubtedly extremely disturbed adults. You ruined lives, Mrs. Holt. Not to mention the fact that what you did has now manifested itself as a murderous presence that threatens still more lives. You have a great deal to answer for!
    MRS. HOLT: I refuse to listen to this when I can smell the sin on each and every one of you!
  • July 14, 2013
    lilliterra
    Okay; mainly I just needed the name of a spesific character.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=jj0ex3ux6ytapfrfe6drrkle