Migration and assistance: Irish unmarried mothers in Britain, 1926-1973
MetadataShow full item record
This item's downloads: 0 (view details)
From 1926 to 1973, hundreds of women travelled from Ireland to Britain each year to escape the shame of unmarried motherhood in their community. As previous scholars have shown, pregnancy outside of marriage was stigmatised for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This thesis offers an insight into a sample of these women’s experiences as revealed through the case files of welfare organisations, mother and baby home records and women’s testimonies. Primarily, the thesis explores the assistance offered to Irish unmarried mothers by welfare organisations in Britain from 1926 to 1973. Women’s experiences are brought to the forefront and incorporate a wide range of issues, including the journey abroad, life within mother and baby homes, adoption and tracing, as well as the struggles of motherhood for those that kept their children. Additionally, it offers a comparative critique contrasting social welfare, maternity care, and the institutionalisation of unmarried mothers in Ireland, Northern Ireland, England and Scotland. It focuses on cities of high migrant populations: London, Liverpool, Birmingham and Glasgow. It examines underlining issues of class and collective responsibility and incorporates unmarried fatherhood which has not received much scholarly attention. It demonstrates that women often enacted a large degree of agency, be it from those who travelled for better institutional care abroad, sought affiliation orders, lobbied for unmarried mother’s allowance and used various resources in order to secure the best situation for themselves and their children. In addition, it scrutinises the changing perspective of single parenthood and developments in assistance, moving away from institutionalisation to financial support in the 1970s.