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Conference Papers Year : 2022

Victorian Single Mothers and their Moral Faults:

Abstract

The London Foundling Hospital was a British charitable institution created in the eighteenth century which offered permanent shelter to orphans and children born out of wedlock. Providing a record of these children’s origins, the archives of this institution are profoundly intimate and marked by the weight of the burden of illegitimacy. In these documents, the silence which usually surrounds out of wedlock pregnancies is given voice as young single mothers are asked to detail the circumstances surrounding their pregnancies, answering a series of questions meant to assess their moral integrity. In the sources at hand, the idea of moral rectitude appears to have been a central preoccupation of the administrators of the Foundling Hospital. The institution had quite early on been criticized for offering an easy access to charity for women who were not always deemed respectable. The administrators had to verify the mothers’ respectability and that they had kept their “shame” hidden and thus merited charity and redemption. Looking at the case of the Foundling Hospital mission, this speech will examine Late Victorian attitudes towards single mothers and what was then perceived as their moral faults. It will focus on the ideological preoccupations of the charitable hospital board such as the focus on respectability and moral rectitude but also on the importance charitable institutions placed on the idea of moral reform.
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Dates and versions

hal-03973455 , version 1 (04-02-2023)

Identifiers

  • HAL Id : hal-03973455 , version 1

Cite

Florence Pellegry. Victorian Single Mothers and their Moral Faults:: A Case Study of the Archive of the London Foundling Hospital (1875-1901). 61ème congrès de la SAES - Faults and Fault Lines, Société des anglicistes de l'enseignements supérieur, Jun 2022, Clermont - Ferrand, France. ⟨hal-03973455⟩
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