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The plight of unwed irish mothers in the twentieth century

Tags Nowhere to turn: These Irish women killed their babies to avoid lives of scandal and poverty Some women were sentenced to death for killing their children but none were actually executed as the justice system was sympathetic to their plight.

  • Every aspect of the welfare state which workers won in the years after the Second World War was resisted by the Unionist government in Stormont and Catholic bishops alike;
  • To this day a family with just two children is known in Ireland as a 'gentleman's family'!
  • Only two out of five 19 year olds in 1960 had completed secondary education; in 1975 it was three out of five; by 1997 it was four out of five.

By Michelle Hennessy Saturday 25 Apr 2015, 10: It was a time when having a child out of wedlock would have brought disgrace on a woman and her entire family.

Being a single mother in 1850 meant resigning yourself to a destitute life for you and your child. Ann Maher was one woman faced with this crisis in 1898. She was 20 years old and single.

Nowhere to turn: These Irish women killed their babies to avoid lives of scandal and poverty

Ann gave birth to a baby boy and made several attempts to hand over his care to someone else. Photograph from penal file of Anne Maher, on her entry to prison.

Afterwards, she went to another institution in Drumcondra but, again, they refused to take her baby. She made a third attempt to find a childminder but they were not at home.

The plight of unwed irish mothers in the twentieth century

Ann was found guilty of manslaughter and sent to prison, where she served more than two years. Photograph from penal file of Anne Maher, on her exit from prison. She said their absence would have been a big contributing factor in the murder of the children.

  • Later in 1992 Annie Murphy, an Irish-American who had had a love affair with the most populist bishop in Ireland, Eamon Casey, wrote a book revealing that he had a teenage son with her;
  • Neighbours would also spy on one another and would tip off police.

In some cases, there were rumours around the woman as her shape grew and then changed again and there was no baby to show for it. Neighbours would also spy on one another and would tip off police. I took a white cloth out of my pocket and tied it around the neck of my child until it was dead. Patrick Quinlan turned his back to me while I was strangling it.

The plight of unwed irish mothers in the twentieth century

When questioned, the man denied he was the father and that he had refused requests for financial assistance. This was not the first time the woman had been suspected of infanticide but this time she was convicted and she served five years in prison for it.

The plight of unwed irish mothers in the twentieth century

In some cases weapons would be used and in those cases punishment would be more severe, say if a know was used or the baby was attacked. Often the baby was thrown into a river, sometimes with a rock attached to it to keep the child under the water.

Between 1850 and 1900, 29 women were sentenced to death in Ireland for killing their own babies. However none of hem were actually executed. Many served short sentences and some were even released immediately after their convinction.

  • The official lunacy rate in Ireland quadrupled between 1841 and 1901;
  • The exposure of this gross hypocrisy gave courage to people who had been abused physically and sexually by priests and nuns under the old repressive regime;
  • You couldn't get out of the outside gate, you just weren't allowed...

A woman called Mary Darby from Tyrone, however, came closest to being executed. Typically the judge would say something along the lines of: This kind treatment of the women most likely came about because judges were aware of the reality for a woman with an illegitimate child.

As the country moved further into the 19th century, Farrell said the justice system and society became even more sympathetic to women like those mentioned above as they recognised post-partum depression and the lack of education given to women about sex and childbirth.

  1. But all this information was suppressed and, although there were always midwives who were willing to help desperate women end intolerable pregnancies, most women came to accept that sexual activity and having babies were inextricably linked.
  2. Apart from domestic servants and nuns, laundry workers made up one of the largest groups of women workers. In the middle of the fourteenth century, religious orders, confraternities, and municipalities established orphanages and foundling hospitals all over europe as a response to the plague and to increasing poverty.
  3. Changing women's lives in ireland to marry all the single men in ireland for most of the 20th century there were over men for single mothers and. Irish Ecclesiastical Ghettos.
  4. Mass action on the streets had brought the first set-piece defeat for the bishops and the bigots since the foundation of the Southern state.
  5. On 6 February 1992 Attorney General Harry Whelehan obtained an interim injunction on the basis of the eighth amendment restraining a 14 year old girl, pregnant as a result of rape and reportedly suicidal, from obtaining an abortion in Britain. The X case During the referendum campaign PLAC was anxious to assure voters that it was interested only in stopping the legalisation of abortion in Ireland.