Single Mothers and Their Children: Disposal, Punishment and Survival in Australia

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Oktober 1996



In Australia until the early 1970s, women were assumed to have husbands who were breadwinners and expected to be housewives and to raise children themselves. If a woman had children but no male provider, she was likely to be economically deprived. If she had never been married she would be stigmatised by society as well. This book, the first comprehensive history of the treatment of single mothers and their children in Australia, is the story of these women and their children and the lives they constructed. Starting in the 1850s when abandonment and infanticide were not uncommon, the book's main focus ends in 1975 when the legal status of illegitimacy was abolished. While the book traces profound changes from a time when single mothers were locked in gaol for discarding their babies to the point when their situation was recognised in the form of state benefits, the authors find a good deal of continuity over the period. The book covers issues of baby farming, infanticide, abortion, sex education, birth control, adoption and marriage, in effect becoming a history of sexual practice in Australia. It uses a broad range of published and oral sources, drawn from interviews, diaries, court records and the problem pages of women's magazines. Shurlee Swain and Renate Howe tell a powerful if painful and often moving story of women who were forced to dispose of their babies and punished for sexual transgression. They also show the ways in which these women, and their illegitimate children, survived. This long-awaited book makes an important contribution to social, welfare and women's history in Australia. It will also resonate with many who have experienced single motherhood directly orindirectly.


1. Introduction: To have an unlicensed child; 2. The mothers: a perfectly nice girl - an ordinary girl, perhaps your own daughter; 3. Breaking the news: what are you going to do about it?; 4. Pregnancy and confinement: medicos, midwives and morals; 5. Death: very army of murderesses within our midst; 6. Separation: now put this thing that has happened to you away, forget about it, get on with the rest of your life; 7. Surviving: you must maintain your own; 8. Illegitimacy: to punish the innocent child; 9. Empowerment and resistance: speaking out publicly.


"...Swain and Renate's findings are far-reaching and immediate." Patricia A. Washington, Jrnl of San Diego History "...thorough account of single motherhood in Australia during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries... ...Swain brings a sophisticated understanding of 'lived experience' to her interpretations of the oral histories. She deftly situates interview data within a wealth of original quantitative data specific to Victoria and generates it for the purposes of this study..." Nancy D. Campbell, Journal of Women's History "This book combines good history with impassioned political advocacy." Pacific Affairs "...a useful, and, at times, powerful and moving contribution to our knowledge of the history of sexuality, motherhood and family life." Elizabeth Yeoman, Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering
EAN: 9780521474436
ISBN: 0521474434
Untertitel: 'Studies in Australian History'. Revised. Sprache: Englisch.
Erscheinungsdatum: Oktober 1996
Seitenanzahl: 288 Seiten
Format: gebunden
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