Chapter

Secrets and Lies: Being and Becoming an Unmarried Mother in Early Twentieth-Century England<sup><b>1</b></sup>

Pat Thane and Tanya Evans

in Sinners? Scroungers? Saints?

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199578504
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741838 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199578504.003.0002
Secrets and Lies: Being and Becoming an Unmarried Mother in Early Twentieth-Century England1

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Points out how many ‘illegitimate’ children were born between the 1830s and 1930s, but that we don't know how many stayed with their mothers. It outlines the variety of ways they stayed together: for example, a child being brought up by grandparents believing they were its parents and their journey of discovery until the shock of finding out. The surprising extent of secret cohabitation because divorce was difficult, and its social acceptability if the families behaved respectably. Increased illegitimacy during the First World War and the moral panic that resulted. Foundation of the National Council for the Unmarried Mother and Her Child (NC) to protect mothers and children. Problems of survival of poor mothers and children with support from their families or the fathers, forcing some to have their children adopted.

Keywords: unmarried mothers; illegitimacy; voluntary action; family history; welfare history; First World War; adoption; cohabitation; divorce

Chapter.  11536 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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