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Institute of Continuing Education (ICE)


This talk will examine poor, unmarried mothers in Georgian England. The poor law provided the legal framework for provision and a parallel system by which unmarried fathers were pursued for the costs of their illegitimate children.

A poor single woman would have found her body to be under intense surveillance for the signs of illicit pregnancy – which were far from clear – by friends and family, as well as by parish officials.

A small unfortunate number of mothers gave birth alone outside or in bedrooms, kitchens, inns, or the privy, but most women were delivered in lodgings or in the homes of relatives and friends.

The parish authorities might pay for the midwife, hoping to recover the costs (as well as child maintenance) from the father. Increasingly women gave birth in workhouses and a few in the new lying-in hospitals.

This presentation will provide a brief overview of their experiences.

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Event date

Monday, 11 March, 2024 - 19:00