This imagery draws upon what was, in the 19th century, a new concern for the plight of disadvantaged or sickly children. In contrast to earlier periods, childhood was now romanticized as a special period in life that should be enjoyed for its own sake, and those who were incapable of doing so became the focus of a great deal of philanthropic activity. Art of the period, particularly that of Augustus Edwin Mulready, attests to the vast reserves of sentimental pity the Victorian heart held for suffering youngsters. It was in this context that paediatrics emerged as a specialized branch of medicine.
The first dedicated children's hospital, Hôpital des Enfants Malades (now Necker-Enfants Malades), opened in Paris in 1802. However the governess would not have had any English establishment upon which to base her imaginings as Great Ormond Street, the first British children's hospital, was not founded until 1852.