Mothers fight to find closure at public cemetery | Globalization | DW | 03.04.2014
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Mothers fight to find closure at public cemetery

A short boat ride from New York's bustling streets, a million people are buried in mass graves on windswept Hart Island. Decades after her baby died, one woman was recently allowed to visit the grave for the first time.

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Potter's Field is New York City's public cemetery, where unclaimed dead are buried by prison inmates. It's also the final resting place for innumerable infants and stillborn babies, whose mothers often unknowingly signed off on a city burial.

The public cemetery is on Hart Island (pictured, far right), and is managed by the New York Department of Corrections - which until recently restricted visitors to a small gazebo far from the actual grave sites.

New Yorker Elaine Joseph gave birth to a girl in 1978, although the baby died shortly after. Since 2009, when Joseph became aware that her baby was buried on Hart Island, she's been fighting to be permitted to visit the grave. She only recently was able to do so and shared her story with DW.

The Hart Island Project seeks to make the graves more accessible, "so that no one is omitted from history."

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