© 2016

Infant Mortality and Working-Class Child Care, 1850–1899

  • Examines working-class mothers’ child caring practices in the north of England during 1850-1899 and their relationship to it

  • Challenges existing accounts, arguing that working-class mothers were responsive and responsible towards their infants

  • Offers a new interpretation and investigative methodology of value to researchers in history and other disciplines associated with this area


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-ix
  2. Melanie Reynolds
    Pages 1-34
  3. Melanie Reynolds
    Pages 67-103
  4. Melanie Reynolds
    Pages 104-126
  5. Melanie Reynolds
    Pages 127-143
  6. Melanie Reynolds
    Pages 144-159
  7. Melanie Reynolds
    Pages 160-163
  8. Back Matter
    Pages 164-251

About this book


Infant Mortality and Working-Class Child Care, 1850-1899 unlocks the hidden history of working-class child care during the second half of the nineteenth century, seeking to challenge those historians who have cast working-class women as feckless and maternally ignorant. By plotting the lives of northern women whilst they grappled with industrial waged work in the factory, in agriculture, in nail making, and in brick and salt works, this book reveals a different picture of northern childcare, one which points to innovative and enterprising child care models. Attention is also given to day-carers as they acted in loco parentis and the workhouse nurse who worked in conjunction with medical paediatrics to provide nineteenth-century welfare to pauper infants. Through the use of a new and wide range of source material, which includes medical and poor law history, Melanie Reynolds allows a fresh and new perspective of working-class child care to arise.


Infant Mortality Child care Industrialization Poor law Medical history care history history of literature law model tradition women

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Oxford Brookes UniversityUK

About the authors

Melanie Reynolds is Associate Lecturer at Oxford Brookes University, UK and was previously Tutor in History at Ruskin College. Her other publications include 'A Man Who Won't Back a Woman is No Man at All': The 1875 Heavy Woollen Dispute and the Narrative of Women's Trade Unionism' in Labour History (2006).

Bibliographic information


“There is much to enjoy in this thought-provoking and innovative book. Melanie Reynolds takes a common-sense approach to understanding the high infant mortality rate which prevailed in the north of England in the late nineteenth century … . Arguing that this represents a sweeping and unfair generalisation by both contemporary commentators and later historians, she uses a wealth of additional sources to examine local circumstances in areas of high infant mortality and to discuss more likely causes.” (Alison Nuttall, Social History of Medicine, Vol. 30 (1), February, 2017)