‘Unfortunate Objects’: Petitioners to the Foundling Hospital

  • Tanya Evans


From 1770 an advertisement was placed at the gate of London’s Foundling Hospital for ‘exposed and deserted young children’ stating that any individual who hoped to gain admission for their child had to deliver their petitions to the secretary. If their petition was passed, the applicant was requested to return with their child the following Saturday to participate in the ballot.1 When Saturday came, mothers cradling their babies were ushered into the hospital chapel while spectators were positioned in the gallery above.2 Two foundling children, flanked by governors supervising the proceedings, would pass a ballot box or bag around the room from which the women would draw one ball. Those who drew a white ball were permitted admission for their child; but if a black ball had been picked out of the bag, admission was denied.3 Frances Barnes took her chance at a ballot on 11 January 1772 at which she explained in a petition that she submitted the following July, ‘I unfortunately drew a black ball.’ She hoped the governors would ‘alow her to take the second chance of a Ballot at the next reception of Children As your petitioner being only a poor Servant and has only 4 pound a year wages as rendered her Incapable of Maintaining her Self and Child out of it’.4


Eighteenth Century Sexual Desire Sexual Relation Poor Woman Domestic Servant 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 12.
    See P. Crawford and L. Gowing (eds), Women’s Worlds in Seventeenth-Century England (London, 2000), pp. 115–116.Google Scholar
  2. 19.
    J. Brownlow, The History and Objects of the Foundling Hospital (London, 1865), pp. 2–3.Google Scholar
  3. 54.
    J. Ashton, Old Times: A Picture of Social Life at the End of the Eighteenth Century (London, 1885), p. 184.Google Scholar
  4. 75.
    L. Gowing, Domestic Dangers: Women, Words, and Sex in Early Modern London (Oxford, 1998), p. 74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Tanya Evans 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tanya Evans

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations