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Evil Orphanage Lady

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"The headmistress is an evil, cruel woman. They call her Grelod the Kind. But she's not kind. She's terrible — to all of us!"
Aventus Aretino, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

In any good Orphanage of Fear or Boarding School of Horrors, especially one for girls, there will probably be 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, mattresses 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, usually an Old Maid who has become old, overweight or otherwise physically unattractive, and the failure to gain a family of her own often explains why she has become such a terrible person. Or, the fact that she is a terrible person explains why she never had her own family in a Chicken-Or-Egg scenario.


Often a Child Hater. Compare The Fagin, a character who takes in orphans specifically to make them commit crimes. See also Evil Teacher, Battleaxe Nurse and Wicked Stepmother.


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    Anime & Manga 

    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.)
  • New Gods: 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.
  • The Goon has Mrs. McGreg, a surly, drunken old hag who runs the McGreg Home For Illegitimate, Wayward and Possibly Homicidal Youth. She routinely abuses the kids under her care, calling them "little unholy bastards" (which they adopt as the name of their gang) and they poison her every chance they get.

    Fan Works 
  • Madam Draygone in The Bond of the Orphans, unaffectionately called "The Dragon" by the children at Draygone House. She yells at everyone, keeps the orphanage in question in disrepair, despises cheerful people and uses deprivation of food as a punishment.
  • RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse: Lemonhearts. She runs her orphanage as a Discordian farming operation. When any of her charges start showing signs of being a Discordian, she removes the chaos magic from them to feed herself, leaving the victim as an Empty Shell. Eventually gets her comeuppance at the end of the one story she appears in.
  • IllMadeKnight has a recurring character in their My Hero Academia fanfics called "Ms. Ikari" who is infamous across the author's personal Multiverse as this trope Up to Eleven. One such version is The Dragon in a Crossover between BSSM, SISBI, and various others.

    Films — Animation 
  • 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".
  • Ms. Mavilda from The Christmas Tree is a corrupt orphanage owner who spends all the funding she gets from the mayor on gambling rather than to help the orphans.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Miss Hannigan from Annie neglects the children in her care.
  • The vile old woman from Prime Cut subjected Poppy to a childhood of fear and abuse, before selling her into prostitution as soon as she reached puberty.
  • The made-for-TV movie Samantha: An American Girl Holiday makes the head of Coldrock House into even more of this than in the book, with Miss Frouchy completely separating Nellie from her sisters, stealing money intended to help the girls in the orphanage, and blaming Samantha and Nellie for the theft when she realizes Nellie is missing. Unlike in the book, she does get her comeuppance at the end; she gets fired right before Christmas.
  • Pan gives Peter Pan a backstory of being an orphan in 1940s England. His orphanage is run by a nun who's ugly, fat, greedy and child hating.

  • Thursdays 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.
  • In the American Girl book Changes for Samantha, Samantha's best friend Nellie and her two younger sisters are sent to an orphanage called Coldrock House after their parents die and their uncle abandons them. Miss Frouchy, the woman who runs Coldrock House, is harsh and cruel to the girls, to the point where it's stated that Samantha's Uncle Gard has to pretend to be quizzing the younger girls on math in order to talk with them, and Nellie and Samantha have to meet in secret. It comes to a head when she tries to send Nellie on the Orphan Train without her sisters, leading to Samantha helping the girls run away and hiding them in the attic until she is caught.
  • The Famine Secret features a workhouse instead of an orphanage, but there's a cruel matron there to Kick the Dog when it comes to the outspoken young Fiona. Her older brother Martin theorises that even when he becomes old enough to leave, the matron probably won't let Fiona go out of spite.
  • Inverted in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince when Harry gets to see a flashback to Voldemort's childhood in an orphanage. The matron Mrs Cole is said to appear "more anxious than unkind" and it's the young Voldemort himself who's an Enfant Terrible.
  • Jane Eyre has Miss Scatcherd at Lowood, although she's more the Beta Bitch for the evil Mr Brocklehurst. At one point she beats up Helen Burns for having dirty nails.
  • The Stump in Edgedancer is a subversion. She takes in children whom their parents can no longer look after, often because of injury, but she does so grudgingly because most of them are faking their injuries for free food. They're not. She's a latent Knight Radiant, and she's unconsciously been using her Truthwatcher abilities to heal the children.

    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.
  • Exploited in an episode of Supernatural. A group of ghost children in an abandoned former orphanage help the hunters banish the ghost of the mean old women ostensibly torturing them. Turns out the woman was a good ghost and the only thing keeping the evil children in check.
  • 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).

  • Miss Hannigan from Annie runs the orphanage where Annie lives. She drinks and mistreats the girls under her charge, telling them not to sing, making them work like servants, and even having a whole song about how she hates little girls. Later she helps organize a plot to kidnap Annie for money. (Though in two of the three film versions, she eventually has a Heel–Face Turn when Annie's life is in danger.)

    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 won't 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 (notably, you can do this openly and suffer no consequences for it). The children will cheer and praise the Dark Brotherhood. Needless to say, the Dark Brotherhood is not happy about this.
  • Ms. Mary of Clock Tower arranges for the protagonist Jennifer and her friends to be adopted by Simon Barrows with seemingly no ill intent. Then the whole thing is revealed to be a group sacrifice for her satanic sons, Dan and Bobby.
  • Grace Thermon in Morpheus. Subverted that the Goodman Home for Boys, where she worked, was actually an Orphanage of Love, and her harsh methods eventually got her fired. This didn't stop one of the heavily bullied orphans, Jan Pharris, from inviting her to his father's yacht, Herculania for mysterious reasons.
  • Ace Attorney Investigations 2 has an interesting example. Patricia Roland has all the hallmarks of this trope, but she's actually a prison warden. It's not until the 5th case that you find out she used to be one: she ran an Orphanage of Fear and was an accomplice to the assassination of a foreign president. The "abuses a specific child" part of the trope is played straight towards Simon Keyes, but for a very specific reason: he witnessed the murder.
  • Final Fantasy VIII reveals that the apparent Big Bad - Sorceress Edea - used to be the orphanage matron for all the protagonists in their childhood. It's then subverted when we discover that Edea was possessed by another evil sorceress - and she was a kind matron to the children. Although there is her questionable decision to turn her orphanage into a military academy and many of the orphans into Child Soldiers.

    Web Animation 
  • Ms. Ricca in La Golda runs her orphanage very strictly, forbidding the children to watch TV or have pets, under penalty of eviction if they do.

    Western Animation 
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks: 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.
  • Time Squad: In the first episode we're introduced to Sister Thornly and her orphanage, "Sister Thornly's School for Wayward Tots", where one of the main characters, Otto Osworth, is living a miserable life at. Thornly is a cruel old nun who forbids Otto from reading, and punishes him frequently for it with chores that are ether humiliating or difficult for a seven year old. She's shown to use a whip to frighten children into working faster, and threaten them with starvation. Later it's revealed that she would drag her wards on "field trips" across the United States, forcing them to work laborious, dirty jobs that pay little with no child safety concerns in sight.
  • Boo Boom! The Long Way Home: The Orphanage of Fear featured in episode 20 is run by a military version of this character named Hilda. She also appears in episode 22, in which she tries to get revenge on Boo-Boom and his animals for destroying her orphanage.


Video Example(s):


Miss Hattie

Miss Hattie, owner of Miss Hattie's Home for Girls, mistreats the orphaned girls and forces them to sell cookies to make profit. Anyone who disobeys her will be sent to the "Box of Shame".

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