The Duty of Poor Mothers in Eighteenth-Century London

  • Tanya Evans

Abstract

On 14 September 1757, five-day-old William Green was brought by his parents to the Foundling Hospital for ‘exposed and deserted young children’ in London. He was dressed in a cloth shirt, a fine diaper waistcoat and wrapped in a new flannel blanket with a napkin, embroidered with the initials EB, possibly his mother’s or father’s, pinned under his chin. When they handed him over to the Foundling’s porter, they also passed a note and a piece of copper to be kept as a token of their affection. The letter read

For neither want of affection nor honesty of intention but from an absolute disability of providing for it, to the care and instruction of the Hospital, under the direction of divine provedence, the Anxious parents particularly the fond mother, afflicted to be torn thus from her beloved Child, Commits and Earnestly recommends her tender babe, wishing she was so happy as to be in a capacity of discharging the duty of a good mother towards it…

Keywords

Poor Woman Surrogate Motherhood Unmarried Mother Lone Mother Parental Affection 
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.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    W. Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England (Oxford, 1965, 5th Edition), pp. 449–451.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    P. Crawford, ‘The Construction and Experience of Maternity in Seventeenth-Century England’, in V. Fildes (ed.), Women as Mothers in Pre-Industrial England (London, 1990), pp. 3–29.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    E. Badinter, The Myth of Motherhood (London, 1981).Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    On the rate, see D. George, London Life in the Eighteenth Century (London, 1925), p. 26.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    E. Shorter, The Making of the Modern Family (London, 1976), p. 195Google Scholar
  6. L. Stone, The Family, Sex and Marriage (London, 1990), pp. 296–297.Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    H. Cunningham, Children and Childhood in Western Society since 1500 (Harlow, 1995), p. 52.Google Scholar
  8. 28.
    J. Henderson and R. Wall (eds), Poor Women and Children in the European Past (London, 1994), p. 10.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Tanya Evans 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tanya Evans

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