‘Be so Good as to Remember Where This Child Goes to’: Poor but not Hopeless
Before approaching parish officers, lying-in hospital authorities and the General Committee of the Foundling Hospital for charity, lone mothers tended to exhaust other possibilities first by asking their employers, family, friends and acquaintances to help them.3 Many petitioners had several options that they might and did explore before calling upon hospital and parish relief. We have already seen how many people also used the Foundling Hospital, as well as the parish and other hospitals, as a temporary expedient during times of particular hardship.4 Historians have few opportunities to glimpse the poor’s strategies of survival but the material also shows us that informal support was as much if not more significant in the lives of the poor than institutional relief. Indeed it is important to acknowledge that most unmarried mothers did not enjoy the benefits of the parish and London’s charitable institutions and the details of their lives are usually beyond the limits of the historian’s gaze. This chapter uses the sources already discussed as well as the petitions for reclaiming children out of the Foundling Hospital to delineate the means by which lone mothers explored their options and negotiated the limited power at their disposal in order to support their children and to reclaim them from the Foundling Hospital once they could afford to.
KeywordsCharacter Reference Unmarried Mother Lone Mother Proper Object Illegitimate Child
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