The Unmarried Mother

in The Unwanted Child

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780226317274
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226317298 | DOI:
The Unmarried Mother

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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This chapter analyzes the story of the unmarried Apollonia Vöglin, who, early in the morning of Saturday, January 18, 1578, gave birth in secret to a baby girl, which she later admitted strangling. Seventeen days later she was arrested for the crime and thereupon began the fight to save herself from the executioner's axe. Apollonia's sad tale is a variation on a familiar literary topos: an unmarried girl, impregnated and jilted by a young cad, is forced by shame to hide her pregnancy, and finally, in desperation, murders her newborn child. In early modern Germany, a confluence of several demographic and social developments threatened to make infanticide a more common reality than at any time since antiquity. Most notably, an economic downturn from the mid-sixteenth century on exacerbated the late marriage tendency already common among Western Europeans.

Keywords: unmarried women; pregnant women; unwanted pregnancies; unwed mothers; infanticide

Chapter.  19570 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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