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Infant death, child care and the state: the baby-farming scandal and the first infant life protection legislation of 1872

  • Margaret L. Arnot
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1 The ‘Report from the Select Committee on Protection of Infant Life; together with proceedings of the Committee, minutes of evidence, appendices and index’ (hereafter SCILP) (Parliamentary Papers (hereafter PP), 1871, VII, 607954) provides numerous descriptions throughout of the variety of child-care arrangements encompassed by the term ‘baby-farming’. See also Curgenven, J. Brendon. On baby-farming and the registration of nurses (London, 1869), 36.

2 As Greenwood, James wrote in The seven curses of London (London, 1869), 57: ‘the law… is stringent … enough as regards inferior animals. It has a stern eye for pigs, and will not permit them to be kept except on certain inflexible conditions … but it takes no heed of the cries of its persecuted babies and sucklings … Would it not be possible, at least, to issue licences to baby-keepers as they are at present issued to cow-keepers?’

3 The first known usage of both the noun and verb ‘slaughter’ relate to the killing of animals for food (OED). While later uses of the word applied to the murder of people, I am suggesting that its use in this context, together with the concept of ‘farm’, made the word ‘slaughter’ resonate strongly with its sense of killing for human consumption. For use of the word ‘slaughter’ see for example: ‘Execution of Mrs Winsor at Exeter, for the barbarous murder of Mary Jane Harris's child’, a broadsheet (which would not in the end have been used because Winsor was given a stay of execution) which refers to ‘Children slaughter'd fearlessly’, and of claims, Winsor ‘A devil she was in human form’; Hart, Ernest, ‘The protection of infant life’, letter to the editor, Pall Mall Gazette, 19 07 1870, 5; ‘Baby-farming’, Medical Times and Gazette, 16 07 1870, 67. Cannibalistic metaphor could even be used for quite deliberate rhetorical purposes. Journalist James Greenwood referred to ‘those monsters in women's clothing who go about seeking for babies to devour’ (Seven curses, 35).

4 This particular moment has been discussed specifically by a number of historians: Behlmer, George K., Child abuse and moral reform in England, 1870–1908 (Stanford, Calif., 1982), ch. 2; Rose, Lionel, Massacre of the innocents: infanticide in Great Britain 1800–1939 (London, 1986), chs. 9, 11 and 12; Shanley, Mary Lyndon, Feminism, marriage and the law in Victorian England 1850–1895 (London, 1989), 8793; McCleary, George F., The maternity and child welfare movement (London, 1935), 8690 (thanks to Seth Koven for this reference); Wilson, Patrick, Murderess: a study of the women executed in Britain since 1843 (London, 1971), 158–64; Pearsall, Ronald, Night's black angels (London, 1975), 106; Smart, Carol, ‘Disruptive bodies and unruly sex: the regulation of reproduction and sexuality in the nineteenth century’, in Smart, ed., Regulating motherhood: historical essays on marriage, motherhood and sexuality, (London, 1992), 13 and 22–4.

5 Documents in the Public Record Office, London (hereafter PRO), MEPO 3/95, ‘W division special report, 9 Nov 1872’, memo note, and MEPO 3/96, ‘X division special report, 7 Aug 1875’, indicate some dithering about jurisdiction and how to act in relation to the Act; MEPO 3/96, ‘B division special report, 23 Aug 1877’, indicates that a house in Montpelier Row, Brompton which functioned openly as a nursery for infants remained unregistered between the passing of the Act in 1872 and August 1877 when the sudden death of an infant resulted in an inquest where the circumstances came to light. While there continued to be occasional scandals about baby-farming, the legislation was not amended until the Infant Life Protection Act of 1897. Further loopholes were closed in the Children Act of 1908. For this later history of baby-farming and relevant legislation see Rose, , Massacre, 111–14, 159–69 and passim, and Behlmer, , Child abuse, 3843, 150–7, 211–13 and 220–1. For a comparative perspective on baby-farming in Philadelphia, see Broder, Sherri, ‘Child care or child neglect? Baby farming in late-nineteenth-century PhiladelphiaGender & Society 2, 2 (1988), 128–48.

6 The motivation for an emphasis in historical studies on meaning has come primarily from anthropology. See, for example, Geertz, Clifford, Interpretation of cultures (London, 1975); Rosaldo, Michelle Zimbalist, ‘The uses and abuses of anthropology: reflections on feminism and cross-cultural understanding’, Signs 5, 3 (1980), 40. Jacques Derrida is the most often quoted authority on a critical method called ‘deconstruction’, although his stress on the importance of criticizing the hierarchical construction of binary oppositions was also being made by feminist critics, especially in their discussion of the ‘nature/culture’ dichotomy. See Derrida, Jacques, Of grammatology (Baltimore, 1976); Culler, Jonathan, On deconstruction: theory and criticism after structuralism (Ithaca, N.Y., 1982); Jordanova, L. J. and Brown, P., ‘Oppressive dichotomies; the nature/culture debate’, in Cambridge Women's Studies Group, Women in society: interdisciplinary essays (London, 1981).

7 Hall, Catherine, White, male and middle class: explorations in feminism and history (Cambridge, 1992), 33.

8 Numerous attempts have been made by socialist feminists to bring about a theoretical marriage between Marxism and feminism by developing an overarching theory about the relationship between gender and class, yet all have failed because in the end their accounts become economically determinist. See, for example, Hartmann, Heidi, ‘Capitalism, patriarchy, and job segregation by sex’, Signs 1, 3, pt 2 (1976), 137–69, and The unhappy marriage of marxism and feminism: towards a more progressive union’, Capital and Class 8 (1979), 133 (reprinted in Sargent, Lydia ed., Women and revolution: the unhappy marriage of marxism and feminism (London, 1981), a very useful collection of essays on the theoretical dilemma). Work on the relationship between gender and race has not to the same extent attempted an overarching theory but instead has concentrated upon outlining relationships between gender, race and imperialism in more specific historical circumstances. See, for example, Davin, Anna, ‘Imperialism and motherhood’, History Workshop Journal 5 (1978), 965; Midgley, Clare, Women against slavery: the British campaigns 1780–1870 (London, 1992); and Chaudhuri, Nupur and Strobel, Margaret eds., Western women and imperialism: complicity and resistance (Bloomington, Ind., 1992). Catherine Hall, in White, male and middle class (especially in the theoretical introduction and the last two essays), considers the inter-relation between gender, race and class.

9 Scott, Joan, ‘Gender: a useful category of historical analysis’, American Historical Review 91, 5 (1986), 1067. This article was subsequently published in Scott, Joan, Gender and the politics of history (New York, 1988).

10 Joan Scott has written a powerful defence of gender as a category of historical analysis, cited above. Other work where the use of ‘gender’ is discussed includes: Hall, , White, male and middle class; the editorial Why gender and history’ in Gender and History 1, 1 (1989), 16; Bock, GiselaWomen's history and gender history: aspects of an international debate’, Gender and History 1, 1 (1989), 730.

11 Scott, , ‘Gender’, 1069.

12 Davidoff, Leonore and Hall, Catherine, Family fortunes: men and women of the English middle class, 1780–1850 (London and Chicago, 1987), 33.

13 Some women, too, were active participants in the construction of domestic ideology, although women writers (of domestic prescriptive literature as well as fiction) were nearly always torn by the contradiction between their work and the ideal of femininity. On this dilemma see Showalter, Elaine, A literature of their own: British women novelists from Brontë to Lessing (London, 1978); Davidoff, and Hall, , Family fortunes, ch. 3; and Koven, Seth, ‘Borderlands: women, voluntary action, and child welfare in Britain, 1840–1914’, in Koven, Seth and Michel, Sonya eds., Mothers of a new world: maternalist politics and the origins of welfare states (New York and London, 1993). More generally on the construction of Victorian domestic ideology, see Davidoff, and Hall, , Family fortunes; Hall, Catherine, ‘The early formation of Victorian domestic ideology’, first published in Burman, Sandra ed., Fit work for women (London, 1979) and now available in Hall, , White, male and middle class; and Welter, Barbara, ‘The cult of true woman hood: 1820–1860’, in Gordon, M. ed., The American family in social-historical perspective (New York, 1973) (an important germinal article in the US historiography). There is also an important historiography outlining the construction of gender polarities in medical science: Schiebinger, Londa, ‘Skeletons in the closet: the first illustrations of the female skeleton in eighteenth-century anatomy’, Representations 14 (1986), 4282, reprinted in Gallagher, Catherine and Laquer, Thomas eds., The making of the modern body: sexuality and society in the nineteenth century (Berkeley, 1987); Schiebinger, Londa, The mind has no sex? Women in the origins of modern science (Cambridge, Mass., 1989); Laquer, Thomas, ‘Orgasm, generation, and the politics of reproductive biology’, Representations 14 (1986), 141, reprinted in Gallagher, and Laquer, eds., The making of the modern body; Digby, Anne, ‘Women's biological straitjacket’, in Mendus, Susan and Rendall, Jane eds., Sexuality and subordination: interdisciplinary studies of gender in the nineteenth century (London, 1989); Jordanova, L. J., Sexual visions (Brighton, 1989); Russett, Cynthia Eagle, Sexual science: the Victorian construction of womanhood (Cambridge, Mass., 1989); Benjamin, Marina, Science and sensibility: gender and scientific enquiry 1780–1945 (London, 1991); Moscucci, Ornella, The science of woman: gynaecology and gender in England 1800–1929 (Cambridge, 1990).

14 Nineteenth-century politicians, writers and professional men had a tradition of exclusion of the female from the rational upon which to draw; see Lloyd, Genevieve, The man of reason: ‘male’ and ‘female’ in western philosophy (London, 1984).

15 There is an extensive literature on this. See, for example, Donajgrodzki, A. P. ed., Social control in nineteenth-century Britain (London, 1977); Belcham, John, Industrialization and the working class: the English experience, 1750–1900 (Aldershot, 1990), esp. ch. 5; Thompson, F. M. L., ‘Social control in modern Britain’, in Digby, Anne and Feinstein, Charles eds., New directions in economic and social history (London, 1989).

16 There is a growing literature emphasizing the importance of connections between the sexual, economic and political of which the present work forms a part. See, for example, Kingsley-Kent, Susan, Sex and suffrage in Britain 1860–1914 (London, 1990); Scott, , ‘Gender’; and Shanley, , Feminism.

17 Jordanova, and Brown, , ‘Oppressive dichotomies’.

18 Various authors discuss the influence of ideas valuing domesticity and motherhood on the development of feminism: see Rendall, Jane, The origins of modern feminism: women in Britain, France and the United States, 1780–1860 (London, 1985); Banks, Olive, Faces of feminism: a study of feminism as a social movement (Oxford, 1981); and Koven, and Michel, eds., Mothers of a new world.

19 Ruskin, John, ‘Of Queens' gardens’, in his Sesame and lilies (1864).

20 Lionel Rose described the National Society for Women's Suffrage as voicing ‘howls of protest’ which were ‘unfair’ (Massacre, 109). McCleary, G. G., writing about the episode in 1935, noted the ‘considerable opposition, notably, strange as it may seem, from the National Society for Women's Suffrage’ (The maternity and child welfare movement, 92).Behlmer, George demonstrated more critical awareness on this issue (Child abuse, 33–4).

21 The centrality of domesticity to middle-class male identity has been established by Davidoff, and Hall, in Family fortunes. See also Roberts, David, ‘The paterfamilias and the Victorian governing classes’, in Wohl, Anthony S. ed., The Victorian family (London, 1977), and Tosh, John, ‘Domesticity and manliness in the Victorian middle class: the family of Edward White Benson’, in Roper, Michael and Tosh, John eds., Manful assertions: masculinities in Britain since 1800 (London, 1991). This was only one of many moments in the nineteenth century when the appropriate extent of the role of central government was in question. As Pat Thane has explained, ‘the boundaries between the permissible activities of the strong central state and those of free institutions and individuals, between public and private spheres of activity, were at the core of political contention throughout the nineteenth century’ (‘Government and society in England and Wales, 1750–1914’, in Thompson, F. M. L. ed., The Cambridge social history of Britain. Vol. 3: Social agencies and institutions (Cambridge, 1990), 12. Work by the author suggests the need for further research on the influence that different constructions of masculinity had upon positions taken up in this struggle over the appropriate role of the state.

22 While historians have noted the anxiety which the ‘cash nexus’ created amongst mid-and late Victorians (see, for example, Jones, Gareth Stedman, Outcast London: a study in the relationship between classes in Victorian society (Oxford, 1971), little attempt has been made to unravel related gender dimensions, which this study does for one relevant moment. An exception is the work of Walkowitz, Judith, City of dreadful delight: narratives of sexual danger in late Victorian London (London, 1992).

23 Koven, and Michel, , ‘Introduction: “mother worlds”’, in Koven, and Michel, eds., Mothers of a new world, 2. An earlier statement of their argument can be found in Womanly duties: maternalist politics and the origins of welfare states in France, Germany, Great Britain, and the United States, 1880–1920 (American Historical Review 95, 4 (1990), 1076–108). This work is part of revisionist history of the growth of the welfare state seeking to reinstate women's agency. For a theoretical rebuttal of the ‘victim model’ of the relation between women and the state, see Jenson, Jane, ‘Gender and reproduction: or, babies and the state’, Studies in Political Economy 20 (1986), 946. Linda Gordon's work in the US historiography, Heroes of their own lives: the politics and history of family violence (London, 1989; first published 1988) was a pioneering specific historical study which was germinal in this historiography. See also Skocpol, Theda, Protecting soldiers and mothers: the political origin of social policy in the United States (Cambridge, Mass., 1992).

24 Koven, and Michel, , ‘Introduction’, 2. Even Mary Carpenter, whose work led to the establishment of state-run juvenile reformatories in the 1850s, opposed state-initiated welfare schemes. She accepted the practical necessity of state funding for large-scale measures only reluctantly and hoped to mitigate such state funding by ensuring that the voluntary sector actually ran the institutions. She demonstrated a similar distrust of central government interference to that expressed by those women opposing the 1872 Infant Life Protection Act. See Koven, , ‘Borderlands’, 100–6.

25 Walkowitz, Judith R., Prostitution and Victorian society: women, class and the state (Cambridge, 1980).

26 Much key recent historiography on the development of infant and maternal welfare stresses the post-1900 period: see Davin, Anna, ‘Imperialism and motherhood’; Dwork, Deborah, War is good for babies and other young children: a history of the infant and child welfare movement in England 1898–1914 (London, 1987); Dyhouse, Carol, ‘Working mothers and infant mortality in England 1895–1914’, Journal of Social History 12, 2 (1978), 248–67; Lewis, Jane, The politics of motherhood: child and maternal welfare in England, 1900–1939 (London, 1980); Marland, Hilary, ‘A pioneer in infant welfare: the Huddersfield scheme 1903–1920’, Social History of medicine 6, 1 (1993), 2550. Other works take study of the issue further back into the nineteenth century, yet none provides an adequate synthesis across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: see Behlmer, , Child abuse; Rose, , Massacre; and Marks, Lara, ‘Medical care for pauper mothers and their infants: poor law provision and local demand in east London 1870–1929’, Economic History Review 46, 3 (1993), 518–42, ‘Mothers, babies and hospitals: “The London” and the provision of maternity care in east London, 1870–1939’, in Fildes, Valerie, Marks, Lara and Marland, Hilary eds., Women and children first: international maternal and infant welfare 1870–1945 (London, 1992) and “The luckless waifs and strays of humanity”: Irish and Jewish immigrant unwed mothers in London 1870–1939’, Twentieth Century British History 3, 2 (1992), 113–37.

27 The continuing political importance of negotiating boundaries between family and state responsibility has been indicated in Britain by the Cleveland crisis, other child-abuse cases and the sweeping Children Act of 1989. In the Cleveland crisis of 1988 a social worker and doctor working together made large numbers of allegations of sexual abuse of children in Cleveland, resulting in many children being removed from their families. An extensive judicial enquiry drew the attention of the nation to child sexual abuse in an unprecedented way and led to widespread debate about the appropriate role of such state-employed professionals and state agencies in families where children were alleged to be at risk. The literature on child abuse generated over the last few years is extensive. Campbell's, BeatrixUnofficial secrets: child sexual abuse: the Cleveland case (London, 1988) was an incisive contemporary criticism. See also Driver, Emily and Droisen, Audrey eds., Child sexual abuse: feminist perspectives (London, 1989). On the Children Act of 1989 see Barlow, Ann, The Children Act 1989: the private law (London, 1991); Freeman, Michael D. A., Children, their families and the law: working with the Children Act (London, 1992); Harris, P. M. and Scanlan, D. E., Children Act 1989: a procedural handbook (London, 1991); and Williams, John, The Children Act 1989: the public law (London, 1991).

28 Anon., The life and trial of the child murderess, Charlotte Winsor (London, n.d.); Greenwood, in Seven curses noted the impact of the Winsor trial (pp. 2930). See also The Times, 2 08 1865, 9; England - infanticide amongst the poor’, The Nation, 31 08 1865, 270–1; Infanticide’, Saturday Review, 5 08 1865, 161–2.

29 The abortion law had been made more stringent by sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. For the police on abortion, see various papers in PRO MEPO 3/92; MEPO 3/94 and MEPO 3/96. Medical men in the period leading up to the Waters case linked midwifery and baby-farming; see Curgenven, On baby-farming; and see the discussion below about British Medical Journal (hereafter BMJ) exposé articles published early in 1868.

30 The Waters/Ellis trial can be traced through the South London Press, 18 June 1870, p. 7, cols. 2–3; 25 June, p. 6, cols. 4–5 to p. 12, cols. 1–2; 9 July, p. 7, cols. 2–3; 30 July 1870, p. 7, cols. 2–3; 24 September, p. 7, cols. 2–5; 8 October, p. 7, cols. 4–5. This local paper contains other relevant articles and letters. See also The Times, 14 June, p. 11, col. 5; 21 June, p. 10, col. 5 (leader) and col. 6; 23 June, p. 12, col. 5; 28 June, p. 11, col. 1; 29 June, p. 11, col. 2; 2 July, p. 11, cols. 1–2; 4 July, p. 9, cols. 2–3 (leader); 7 July, p. 12, cols. 4–5; 9 July, p. 11, col. 1; 14 July, p. 9, col. 4 and p. 11, col. 6; 20 July, p. 10, col. 6; 28 July, p. 11, col. 2; 29 July, p. 11, col. 6; 13 August, p. 5, col. 6; 16 August, p. 9, col. 3; 22 September, p. 9, cols. 2–3; 23 September, p. 11, cols. 1–3; 24 September, p. 9, cols. 5–6 (leader); 24 September, p. 9, col. 5 and p. 11, cols. 1–3; 5 October, p. 6, col. 5; 7 October, p. 9, col. 1; 11 October, p. 12, col. 4; 12 October, p. 9, cols. 5–6; 12 October, p. 11, col. 3. On the network of women involved, see Curgenven, Infanticide’, The Sanitary Record, 15 03 1890, 415–17; for police papers on the related cases of Mary Hall and Anne Cummings, see PRO MEPO 3/94.

31 The modern press is no less guilty of imposing ‘trial by press’. In Australia in the notorious Lindy Chamberlain or ‘dingo baby’ case, this is precisely what occurred. This case was one of the original impetuses for my historical research in this area. On this case see Bryson, John, Evil angels (Ringwood, Vic., 1986); Chamberlain, Lindy, Through my eyes (London, 1990); Craik, Jennifer, ‘The Azaria Chamberlain case and questions of infanticide’, Australian Journal of Cultural Studies 4, 2 (1987); Crispin, Ken, The dingo baby case (Tring, Herts., 1987); Johnson, Dianne, ‘From fairy to witch: imagery and myth in the Azaria case’, Australian Journal of Cultural Studies 2, 2 (1984); and Wood, Briar, ‘The trials of motherhood: the case of Azaria and Lindy Chamberlain’, in Birch, Helen ed., Moving targets: women, murder and representation (London, 1993). For an analysis of another interesting modern case, see McCafferty, Nell, A woman to blame: the Kerry babies case (Dublin, 1985).

32 The Times, leader, 4 07 1870, p. 9, col. 2.

33 Waters wrote a fifteen-page autobiographical statement while awaiting execution. Its contents were read before a meeting of the Dialectical Society and were reported extensively in the press; however, it has not been possible to locate the original. See The Times, 1 10 1870, p. 9, col. 1 and South London Press, 8 10 1870, p. 7, cols. 4–5, for reports of Dialectical Society meeting; PRO HO 12/193/92230, item 14, from James Edmunds, MRCS (to whom Waters gave the statement), 6 October 1870; and the Daily Telegraph, 12 10 1870, p. 2, col. 4, for discussion of a four-page statement written by Waters on the evening before she was hanged.

34 This point was made by petitioners: see PRO HO 12/193/92230, item 9, from Dr John Pickstock, MRCP, 3 October 1870; item 14, from James Edmunds, 6 October 1870; item 29, from John Stride, MRCS, 10 October 1870; item 40, from Alfred John Kelly, 9 October 1870. It was also made in debates about the efficacy of foundling institutions: see The Times, 16 01 1877, p. 11, col. 6; 18 January 1877, p. 12, col. 2; 26 January 1877, p. 5, col. 5; 30 January 1877, p. 11, col. 6; 8 March 1877, p. 8, col. 3; and in evidence before the SCILP (see SCILP Report, iv-v; evidence of Ernest Hart, p. 11, qq. 201–2); and by medical men in debates about infant mortality and infanticide: see Greaves, George, MRCS, ‘Observations on some of the causes of infanticide’, Transactions of the Manchester Statistical Society, January 1863, 1517.

35 PRO HO 12/193/92230, 1st letter in item 3 on file, from J. R. Mayo (solicitor for the defence in the case), 24 September 1870; 2nd letter in item 3 in the file, from Joseph Forth and Jacob Coupland Forth, 27 September 1870; item 10 from Mayo, 3 October 1870.

36 PRO HO 12/193/92230, item 6, from Joseph Forth and Jacob Coupland Forth, 29 September 1870; item 13, from John Bithrey, 5 October 1870; item 14, from James Edmunds, 6 October 1870; item 29, from John Stride, MRCS, 10 October 1870; item 40, from Alfred John Kelly, 9 October 1870.

37 PRO HO 12/193/92230, 2nd letter in item 3 in the file, from Joseph Forth and Jacob Couplan Forth, 27 September 1870.

39 PRO HO 12/193/92230, item 9, from Dr John Pickstock, MRCP, 3 October 1870. Similarly, a man who had taken lodgings with Waters several years previously wrote of his wife's and his own impression of Margaret Waters as demonstrating great affection and judicious care of the children in her charge (PRO HO 12/193/92230, item 18, from Mr H. W. Mason, 7 October 1870).

40 For Waters' statement see PRO HO 12/193/92230, item 4; for the trial judge's reply see same file, item 8.

41 PRO HO 12/193/92230, item 21, from Mr Mayo, 9 October 1870 (with a file note suggesting that two further jurymen had made more informal communications indicating their discontent with verdict).

42 PRO HO 12/193/92230, item 18, from Mr H. W. Mason, 7 October 1870.

43 The achievement of justice for those accused of heinous crimes which are a matter of common public debate remains difficult: the series of miscarriages of justice associated with IRA terrorism, and a number of other cases, have led to the current major reassessment of the British criminal justice system which has recently been carried out by the Royal Commission into the Criminal Justice System.

44 Rose, , Massacre, 161.

45 Medical Press and Circular, 13 June 1866, 627–30; Curgenven, J. Brendon, ‘Infanticide, baby-farming, and the Infant Life Protection Act 1872’, Sanitary Record, 15 April 1889, 461–3 (note that this paper was published consecutively in several issues of The Sanitary Record).

46 ‘The waste of infant life’, NAPSS Sessions Papers, 18661867, 222–35.

47 The investigation and articles can be seen as an interesting journalistic precursor to William Stead's ‘Maiden tribute of modern Babylon’ in the Pall Mall Gazette, which a decade late focused the nation's attention on the prostitution of young girls. See Gorham, Deborah, ‘“The maiden tribute of modern Babylon” re-visited’, Victorian Studies 21, 3 (1976), 353–79, and Walkowitz, , City of dreadful delight, chs. 3 and 4. In the late 1860s to early 1870s the Pall Mall Gazette (PMG) carried critical material on infanticide and baby-farming, including editorial comment and letters from Ernest Hart. For relevant leading articles see Illegitimacy and infanticide’, PMG, 9 02 1867, 1011; ‘Baby-farming’, PMG, 25 09 1867, 1; ‘The baby-farming interest’, PMG, 31 01 1868, 5. Here the PMG was suggestive only of the nature of the trade, and defers to the imminent articles in the BMJ which ‘is able to publish things that we cannot very well print here’. Thus the attention of a wider public was drawn to the BMJ articles, without the PMG attracting public opprobrium for publishing scandalous material. In 1885, it was not so reticent. For Hart's letters, see PMG, 2 07 1870, 5; 9 July 1870, 5; 19 July 1870, 5. The PMG also followed the Waters trial.

48 Curgenven, , ‘Infanticide’; Behlmer (Childabuse, 1938) provides a careful outline of relevant legislative reform activity.

49 Curgenven, , ‘Infanticide’, Sanitary Record, 15 03 1890, 416.

50 Quoted in Behlmer, , Child abuse, 30.

51 Curgenven, John Brendon, ‘Infant Life Protection Bill’ (21 02 1871). Only relatives, legal guardians, persons caring for the children of parents who were resident abroad, those responsible for pauper children, boarding schools and public orphanages and those taking responsibility for a child for less than 24 hours were exempt.

52 See Journals of the House of Commons, CXXVI, 1871, pp. 51, 52, 66, 116, 121, 126, 135, 174, 177, 259, 352 for the passage of the Bill, and the same Journals, pp. 177 and 186, for the appointment of the Select Committee.

53 Doctors Hart, Wiltshire, Curgenven, Tyson, West, Lancaster, Farr and Whitehead were examined.

54 MrHarwood, T., cited in Curgenven, , ‘The waste of infant life’, 224. Curgenven certainly agreed with his correspondent.

55 SCILP, Minutes of evidence, p. 155, q. 3338.

56 Ibid, p. 162, qq. 3525–6.

57 Saturday Review, 5 08 1865, 161.

59 Baby-farming and wet-nursing’, BMJ, 1871, vol. 1, 27 05 1871, 570–1.

60 SCILP, Minutes of evidence, p. 62, q. 1325. On lodging houses see Curgenven's, evidence, p. 59, qq. 1239–44, and p. 61, qq. 1275–82. For other statements clarifying Curgenven's position that only mercenary child-care arrangements need regulation, see his evidence, pp. 53–3, q. 1091, and p. 58, q. 1195–6.

61 SCILP, Minutes of evidence, p. 13, q. 234.

62 For examples of questions by Charley, see SCILP, Minutes of evidence, p. 28, q. 524–6; p. 68, q. 1428, and p. 174, qq. 3786–7; and for Playfair, , see p. 162, q. 3537.

63 On the medical constructions of foetal life as human life and the influence of these views on abortion legislation in England and the US, see Keown, John, Abortion, doctors and the law: some aspects of the legal regulation of abortion in England from 1803 to 1982 (Cambridge, 1988); Mohr, James C., Abortion in America (Oxford, 1978); Luker, Kristin, Abortion and the politics of motherhood (Berkeley, Calif., 1984). See Arnot, Margaret L., ‘Gender in focus: infanticide in England 1840–1880’ (unpublished PhD thesis, University of Essex, 1994), pp. 3746, for a discussion of widespread nineteenth-century views that the new-born infant was something ‘other’.

64 Medical criticism of female midwives has been examined in Donnison's, Jean, Midwives and medical men: a history of inter-professional rivalries and women's rights (New York, 1977), and Towler, Jean and Bramall's, JoanMidwives in history and society (London, 1986).

65 Sometimes, when the circumstances of individual children were investigated, the revelations were very disturbing, as is the case with similar reports today. The BMJ investigated a particular child who was reasonably healthy and able to walk when placed with a particular baby-farmer at the age of 14 months. When removed from the place perhaps 18 months later, the child was no longer able to walk, ‘its legs thin and weak; it has knock-knee bow-legs - in a word, its legs are like drum-sticks, and its belly like a drum’. He had had a bad accident, falling into the fire. The ends of four fingers burnt off, the muscles in one arm partially destroyed and his face was scarred from burning (BMJ, 1868, vol. 1, 11 01 1868, 33; BMJ, 1868, vol. 1, 25 01 1868, 84).

66 Baby-farming and child-murder’, BMJ, 1868, vol. 1, 25 01 1868, 75, and baby-farming and baby-murder’, BMJ, 1868, vol. 1, 22 February 1868, 175.

67 Baby-farming and child-murder’, BMJ, 1868, vol. 1, 8 February 1868, 127–8. Note that these descriptions counter to dominant representations of motherhood were not without their exceptions. A 'buxom, energetic smart woman of 42… [expecting] to be confined of her thirteenth child in March' was not, perhaps understandably, given any particularly non-maternal description by the investigator.

68 Baby-farming and baby-murder’, BMJ, 1868, vol. 1, 22 February 1868, 175.

70 Ibid., 29 February 1868, 197.

72 See Crosby, Christina, The ends of history: Victorians and the ‘woman question’ (London, 1991), ch. 3 for a useful discussion of the politics of melodramatic representation.

73 Baby-farming and baby-murder’, BMJ, 1868, vol. 1, 8 February 1868, 127.

74 Ibid., 28 March 1868, 301–2.

75 Baby-farming in the northBMJ, 1880, vol. 1, 1 May 1880, 667.

77 Curgenven, J. Brendon, ‘The waste of infant life’, 222. See also p. 226: ‘This care is not exercised by thousands of mothers and nurses, partly through ignorance and partly through carelessness’, and also p. 227. On p. 231 he expressed the opinion that ‘If a hospital or dispensary were close to the doors of many of these women [of the labouring classes], I do not believe they were apply for relief until medical aid were useless’, thus suggesting a low opinion of the standards of care provided by these women for these children, whether their own or nurse children.

78 Husband, W. D., ‘Infant mortality’, NAPSS Transactions, 1864, 507.

79 Ibid., 508.

80 See, too, related comments about the ways in which creches could help educate mothers how best to care for their children: Curgenven, , ‘The waste of infant life’, 229; NAPSS Transactions, 1874, 729. In a more specific context, at the SCILP, Ernest Hart spoke of the need for ‘medical detectives who would put in action the police detectives’ (p. 11, q. 199).

81 SCILP, Minutes of evidence, p. 22, qq. 398–9.

82 SCILP, Minutes of evidence, p. 14, q. 254; p. 18, q. 296; p. 27, q. 507.

83 Hart's emphasis upon maternal responsibility was further highlighted by his belief that alteration of the bastardy laws to enable greater responsibility to be taken by fathers for their illegitimate offspring was not necessary (SCILP, Minutes of evidence, p. 13, q. 232).

84 On status anxiety amongst medics and the struggle for professional, as distinct from artisanal, status, see Peterson, Jeanne M., The medical profession in mid-Victorian London (Berkeley, Calif. 1978).Behlmer, (in Child abuse, p. 23) has pointed to the connection between reform activities of some doctors in the area of infant welfare and their desire for increased status. Judith Walkowitz made the same point about the involvement of some of the same medical men in the campaign to extend the Contagious Diseases Acts (Prostitution, pp. 84–5).

85 PRO MEPO 3/96, anonymous letter to Secretary of State Grosvenor Street, 4 July 1870.

86 PRO MEPO 3/96, no. 6, district N division, anonymous letter re: a house no. 5 College Street, Islington. Report 26 July 26 1870, signed by Wood. D. S.; PRO MEPO 3/96 P division special report 9 January 1871. Daily reports by Sergeant Relf from 26 December 1870 to 7 January 1871.

87 PRO MEPO 3/96, detective officer's special report, Scotland Yard, 14 July 1873, signed Redk. Jarvis Sergeant. Fredk Williamson Supt.

88 PRO MEPO 3/96, detective officer's special report, Scotland Yard, 23 December 1873.

89 She was also described as the ‘founder and directress’ of the Discharge Female Prisoners' Aid Society of the Metropolitan Districts (NAPSS Transactions, 1870, 291).

90 SCILP Minutes of evidence, p. 222, q. 4897.

91 Ibid., q. 4897.

92 Ibid., q. 4940.

93 Ibid., q. 4946.

94 Ibid., q. 4947.

95 Discussion held after paper by Lankester, Edwin, ‘Can infanticide be diminished by legislative enactment?’, NAPSS Transactions, 1869, 215.

97 Mrs Meredith, , ‘On righteous baby farming’, NAPSS Transactions, 1870, 554.

98 Ibid., p. 223, q. 4937.

99 MrsBaines, M. A., The practice of hiring wet nurses (especially those from the ‘fallen’), considered as it affects public health and public morals (London, 1860); On the prevention of excessive infant mortality (Manchester, 1868); Excessive infant mortality: how can it be stayed? (London, n.d.); and Infant mortality’, NAPSS Transactions, 1867, 529–31. See also Rose, , Massacre, 52–4. A letter to The Times, 23 01 1862 (p. 8, c. 2) from ‘M.A.B.’, expressing the opinion that the employment of working-class mothers outside the home ‘is very destructive of home feeling and ties, as well as subversive of domestic health and order’ was probably from Mrs Baines.

100 MrsBaines, M. A., ‘A few thoughts concerning infanticide’, Journal of Social Science including the Sessional Papers of the NAPSS, ed. Lankester, Edwin, 10 (08, 1966), 535–40.

101 Ibid., 536.

102 Ibid., 540.

103 Ibid., 538–40. Mrs Maine's institution run along these lines had recently been established in London. See discussion of Mrs Main's views below.

104 NAPSS Transactions, 1865, 474. Her paper on this subject is only very briefly mentioned in a summary of the proceedings of the Health Department.

105 Baines, , ‘A few thoughts’, 536–8.

106 Ibid., 538.

107 SCILP, Minutes of evidence, 212–15.

108 Ibid., p. 218, qq. 4832–6. She expressed the opinion in her report of the Infants' Home in Coram Street for 1865 that such institutions ‘will be the means of preventing infanticide in England’: quoted in Safford, A. Herbert, ‘What are the best means of preventing infanticide?’, NAPSS Transactions, 1866, 228.

109 Ibid., p. 216, q. 4752.

110 Ibid., p. 218, qq. 4832–6.

111 Committee for Amending the Law in Points Wherein it is Injurious to Women (CALPWIW), Infant mortality: its causes and remedies (Manchester, 1871), 3.

112 Ibid., 6.

113 Ibid.

114 I use the word ‘patriarchal’ in its narrow sense. I share Sheila Rowbotham's rejection of the usefulness of the term ‘patriarchy’ beyond its reference to ‘father rule’ within families: see Rowbotham, Sheila, ‘The trouble with “patriarchy”’, in Samuel, Raphael ed., People's history and socialist theory (London, 1981), 364–9, and Alexander, Sally and Taylor, Barbara, ‘In defence of “patriarchy”’, in Samuel, ed., People's history, 370–3.

115 This seems to indicate that these women did not realize that legal recognition of married women's property rights would also bring with it responsibilities. The law of coverture had taken away women's legal identity on marriage, denying her property rights but also absolving her of financial and legal responsibility. However, the Married Women's Property Act of 1870 both introduced limited property rights for married women and made a married women liable for the support of both her husband and her children, while not relieving the husband of reciprocal marital and parental responsibilities; see Holcombe, Lee, Wives and property: reform of the married women's property law in nineteenth-century England (Toronto, 1983), 170.See also Arnot, , ‘Gender in focus’, ch. 6, for the argument that in actual court practice, women were deemed to have the greater responsibility for all aspects of child-care, even maintenance.

116 CALPWIW, Infant mortality, 32–3.

117 Ibid., 9.

118 Ibid., 10.

119 Ibid., 12.

120 Ibid., 23.

121 Dictionary of natonal biography (DNB), (Oxford, 1973), vol. 22, 291.

122 Walkowitz, , Prostitution, 120. See the DNB entry cited in n. 121 for more on the Bright family, and the relevant marriage connections.

123 SCILP, Minutes of evidence, passim.

124 SCILP, Minutes of evidence, p. 24, q. 438.

125 See their questioning in SCILP, Minutes of evidence, passim, and the relevant DNB entries.

126 SCILP, Minutes of evidence, p. 24, qq. 434–6.

127 SCILP, Minutes of evidence, p. 161, q. 3513.

128 Taylor, Whately Cooke, ‘What influence has the employment of mothers in manufactures on infant mortality; and ought any, and what, restrictions to be placed on such employment?’, NAPSS Transactions, 1874, 576–7.

129 Dr Tench, , in NAPSS Transactions, 1864, pp. 575–76, summarized his paper (quote p. 576).

130 Husband, , ‘Infant mortality’, 499502.

131 Ibid.

132 Curgenven, , ‘The waste of infant life’, 225. Anna Davin has pointed out the importance attached to the raising of sons in the early twentieth century (‘Imperialism’, 26).

133 Husband, , ‘Infant mortality’, p. 506.

134 Ibid., p. 507.

135 Curgenven, , ‘The waste of infant life’, 223.

136 SCILP, Minutes of evidence, p. 13, q. 234.

137 Foucault, Michel (The history of sexuality, vol. 12: An introduction, trans. Hurley, Robert (Penguin, 1981)), in chapter 3 discusses the important of ‘the socialization of procreative behaviour’ as one of the central ‘strategic unities’ (p. 103) wherein sexuality was constructed and power operated in the nineteenth century. See also Weeks, Jeffrey, Sex, politics and society: the regulation of sexuality since 1800 (London, 1981).

138 Henriques, Ursula, ‘Bastardy and the New Poor Law’, Past and Present 37 (1967), 103–29; Thane, Pat, ‘Women and the New Poor Law in Victorian and Edwardian England, History Workshop Journal 6 (1978), 2951.

139 See, for example, Marcus, , The book of murder (London, 1839); The Times, 31 03 1845, p. 4, cols. 3–4; and ‘The increase in infanticide’, BMJ, 14 10 1865, 409.

140 The ‘narrowing’ of the topic in medical circles can be traced through the BMJ. Initial narrowing of the parameters of the debate can be seen in a December 1867 leader: Baby-farming’, BMJ, 21 12 1867, 570. After the Waters case, the Journal's position had become even narrower, evidence in an editorial response to a letter from Dr Charles Drysdale who was critical of the proposed registration and supervision of baby-farms. He placed the problem of high infant mortality in a wide social context, relating it primarily to illegitimacy and the prevailing economic and social discrimination against single mothers, proposing population control and greater access to divorce as reforms which would address the issues. The Journal's, response was vitriolic: ‘What we have, however, in the present instance to consider is, how to deal with the children to whom mothers refuse or are unable to give individual and personal attention. The question to be considered narrows itself, therefore, to this: Is it better to leave such children to the unregulated mercies of uninspected baby-farmers, or is it desirable to provide State inspection for the helpless bantlings?…the problem to be solved is eminently medical.’ Both letter and leader are published under headings of baby-farming’ in BMJ, 22 10 1870, 443 and 452.

141 This was the title of an address given by Charles Kingsley at the first public meeting of the Ladies' National Association for the Diffusion of Sanitary Knowledge in 1858 (London, 1858).

* Department of History, Roehampton Institute, London.

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Continuity and Change
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