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Paradoxe(s) victorien(s) – Victorian Paradox(es)

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William Findlay

III. Le peuple

The Alice Syndrome: Inventing the “Golden Age” of Childhood

Rosie Findlay

Résumé

By the end of the nineteenth century, social convention had placed the child in a position of veneration both inside the family unit and more widely as a public asset, the future of the nation. Enlightened commentators proudly proclaimed that this was the “golden age” of the child, that the quality of childhood had become the measure by which modern civilisations would ultimately be judged. Certainly in terms both of national aspirations as much as in concrete achievements over the century, such high claims have much to commend themselves. But beyond the limits of this would-be “wonderland” the price demanded of those unable to aspire to its safety was even more excessive. This paper proposes to explore this paradox, how a determined enlightened public opinion came to tolerate, indeed, to embrace such extreme contradictions... in the name of the child, the family and the nation itself.

Texte intégral

  • 1 F. M. L. Thompson, The Cambridge Social History of Britain 1750-1950, Volume 2. Cambridge, Cambridg (...)

1By the end of the nineteenth century, social convention had placed the child in a position of veneration both inside the family unit and more widely as a most valuable public asset1. From the level of the family unit to that of the nation-state, ensuring the physical and spiritual well-being of the child was deemed to be one of the main and most easily justifiable preoccupations of public endeavour after all. As a self-evident truth based on sound common-sense it was argued that,

  • 2 Sir Percy Alden, Halley Stuart Lecture, 1936. Ivy Pinchbeck and Margaret Hewitt, Children in Englis (...)

“the child is the foundation of the State and the first line of defence. We cannot lay too much stress upon the importance of the child if the State is to endure”2.

  • 3 One author even went so far as to affirm that the coming century would be that of the child. Ellen (...)

2At the same time, contemporary opinion was immensely proud of what society had achieved in the field of child care and child protection and even went so far as to proclaim that this was the “golden age” of the child, that the quality of childhood indeed had become the measure by which modern civilisations would ultimately be judged3. Here too, as The Times explained, the duty of the State in this field was inalienable and outwith the realms of political debate,

  • 4 The Times, 7 October 1913.

“because they are the children of the nation, the nation owes them all the care that a mother owes to her own child. Because they are the future nation, the State can only neglect them to its own hurt and undoing But it is a law of life... that the nation’s children are the nation’s opportunity”4.

  • 5 Hugh Cunningham, op. cit., p. 51.

3In comparison to what had existed before, contemporaries had a right to feel that their achievements amounted to a “golden age” of the child. Particularly for the least fortunate of society, the ‘children without childhood’5childhood had certainly been transformed when compared to earlier times, from a life dominated by employment from the age of six or seven to a life spent in the protective environment of the school until around the age of twelve or more. From its early beginnings in 1833, the various improvements made to children’s working conditions and the gradual introduction of educational provision transformed their daily lives. Slowly but surely as more and more laws were passed throughout the century, what had initially been a life of economic exploitation and toil for “the adult in miniature”, became a part of the cycle of life apart. By 1891 childhood can be legally said to have ended at the age of 11, the minimum age for work in Britain’s factories.

  • 6 Special schools for the blind and deaf were made available from 1893.

4Another field where public opinion could, with pride, claim that the child had been taken care of was education. Although in the earlier part of the century, State participation in educational provision had been essentially limited to a financial level, the granting of money to the British and Foreign School Society and the National Society for the Education of the Poor, while the majority of the work itself was carried out by philanthropists, the right to control how such money was spent gradually took precedence over other considerations. By the 1860s Robert Lowe was able to bring in his Revised Code, and a system of ‘payment by results’. In 1870, Forster’s Act took this process a stage further and established a universal system of elementary schools for the working class, made it compulsory up until the age of 10 in 1880, and free in 18916.

  • 7 Harry Hendrick, Children, Childhood and English Society 1880-1990. Cambridge, Cambridge University (...)

5In the field of infantile medicine likewise State intervention follows much the same pattern. The first hospital for sick children was opened in Great Ormond Street, London in 1853, (much later than those in Paris or Berlin), and by 1869 it had 75 beds. Other initiatives soon followed, often combining public finances with philanthropic endeavours such as the Evelina Hospital for Sick Children, built in 1869 with 30 beds thanks to a generous donation from Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild who provided for more than 100 daily out-patients. Other parts of the country soon followed such as the opening of the Yorkhill Hospital in Glasgow in 1882. In this, as in other initiatives, the very noble desire to alleviate suffering and to fight the appallingly high infantile death rates of the time (about which more in a moment) neatly coincided with a growing political concern for the condition of the people and the much feared decline of the race7.

  • 8 Anna Davin, Growing up poor: home, school and street in London 1870-1914. London, Rivers Oram, 1995 (...)

6And lastly, towards the end of the century, there was a growing involvement of the State as it took over the role from the parent of protecting the child from cruelty, by passing several acts giving the child a new status as an individual in his own right. In 1889 the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act gave children clearly defined rights in relation to their parents or guardians and later, this conception of ‘State parenthood’8 was reinforced with the Children’s Charter of 1908 where the child’s separate identity and needs were fully recognized.

7All in all it is not hard therefore to see how our Victorian ancestors could boast so easily of their achievements in the field of child protection. But the whole picture has a negative side to it as the State was also guilty of turning a blind eye to other aspects of childhood. Among these we might note the ever present problem of child prostitution and paedophile activities, that of parental abuse or economic exploitation of their children over the age of two. But the area I want to concentrate on today is that of infant mortality and the grey zone which, particularly where illegitimate babies and baby-farming were concerned, blurred the line between accidental and premeditated deaths, not, I’m afraid, a very amusing topic but a very real problem as we shall see.

  • 9 Even as late as 1899-1903 in Glasgow the infant mortality rate for illegitimate children was 276, f (...)
  • 10 Anthony Wohl, Endangered Lives. Public Health in Victorian Britain, London, Methuen, 1984, p. 23. G (...)
  • 11 Lionel Rose, Massacre of the innocents. Infanticide in Great Britain 1800-1939. London, Routledge a (...)
  • 12 William B. Ryan, Infanticide: its law, prevalence, prevention and history. London, Churchill, 1862, (...)
  • 13 R. Sauer, “Infanticide and abortion in nineteenth century Britain”, Population Studies, vol. 32, 19 (...)
  • 14 Mark Jackson ed., Infanticide, Historical perspectives on child murder and concealment, 1550-2000. (...)
  • 15 Margaret Arnot, Gender in Focus: Infanticide in England 1840-1880. University of Essex, Ph. D., 199 (...)
  • 16 A. WOHL, op. cit., p. 11.
  • 17 Dorothy L, Haller, Bastardy and baby-farming in Victorian England. Http.//loyno.edu/history/journal (...)
  • 18 A. Wohl, op. cit., p. 17.

8The high infant mortality rate of the Victorian period in England and Scotland9 can be explained by various causes. Among these, the most common were diarrhoea (‘among the most fatal of infant ailments10) and “overlying” pneumonia and bronchitis as well as a whole host of infectious diseases such as smallpox, whooping cough and scarlet fever11. Yet alongside these natural causes, however, another dimension has to be added, which is death through infanticide. In medical jurisprudence, infanticide is the murder of a new-born baby, but with no clear definition of the term ‘new-born’, it is not restricted to any definite period after birth12. Surprisingly perhaps for a society so imbued with its sense of child protection, infanticide was far from being an unknown quantity. Indeed, as even a cursory exploration of the popular press would show, it was known as the “sin of the age”, “par excellence the great social evil of our day” or the “national stigma of an age13 and was linked very much to the problem of illegitimacy. What is even more surprising is that infanticide in the mid 19th century was not seen as a criminal offence. The common approach was to take the line that the mother was naturally esteemed ‘out of her mind’ by the very fact that she should have allowed her newborn to die in the first place. Hence offenders were rarely sentenced to anything more than the punishment for the concealment of birth14. Infanticidal women, it was generally held, should be treated with compassion as objects of mercy, for not only had they sinned but had paid a heavy price for their lack of responsibility15. Yet, other reasons, less publicly avowed, can also be seen behind the nation’s attitude towards the murky area surrounding the causes of the exceptionally high infant mortality rate and help to explain why a more stringent legal framework took so long to appear. Among these we might note the greater recognition of the inevitability of death, the tacit but tenacious belief in the theory of the survival of the fittest and by extension that the nation would somehow not be stronger by helping the weak to survive16 and that it was not Parliament’s place to interfere in17 or violate the intimacy of family affairs18, for as Disraeli had proclaimed in 1872, England was,

  • 19 T. E. Kebbel, Selected speeches of the Earl of Beaconsfield, vol. II, London, 1882, p. 494.

“a domestic country. Here the home is revered and the hearth is sacred”19.

9Reform hence moved slowly as the government conveniently retrenched itself behind a wall of self-righteous non-intervention, where,

  • 20 L. G. Housden, The Prevention of Cruelty to Children. London, Jonathan Cape, 1955, p. 28. In 1866 t (...)

“.... the rights of the parents excused the State from action”20.

  • 21 J. B. Curgenven, “On baby-farming and the registration of nurses”. National Association for the Pro (...)
  • 22 R. Sauer, op. cit., p. 87.

10The link between infanticide and illegitimacy held the key to the problem in the eyes of Victorian social reformers. In order to maintain an appearance of “respectability” for pregnant women, a nation-wide trade in “adoption” of “unwanted children” had gradually been set up during the nineteenth century. The size of the problem can be judged from a study done by the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science which in 1869 estimated that over 50,000 illegitimate children were born annually, at least two-thirds of which were “put out to nurse”21. This unofficial “adoption” service was sufficiently well-structured as to run regular advertisements in the nation’s major press organs, and was popularly known under the name of “baby farming”. What caused such disquiet however was the uncontrolled nature of this trade in infants and the fact that although the national infant mortality rate in the 1870s was situated at the 15-16% level, the rates among ‘baby-farmers’ could be as high as 90%22. Despite pressure from the medical profession however, and attempts at legislation, such as a Bill introduced by Lord Shaftesbury in 1868 which proposed an inquiry into registration and supervision of people who had the occupation of baby-farmers, other “more important” issues resulted in the legislation being dropped.

  • 23 The Times, 26 November 1867, p. 4.
  • 24 MEPO 2/399 under the Infant Life Protection Act 1872.

11In truth, disquiet had been growing about the rising levels of infant mortality for some time. In the years 1852-6, according to The Lancet, there was an annual average of 78 infants under one declared murdered in England and Wales and ten years later, The Times stated the figures of 124, 166, 203, 175 and 16623. In the years 1864-68, an average of 225 dead abandoned children were found in London as a whole and in 1872 in certain districts, in Wandsworth and Hampstead in particular, 20 to 25 corpses were found. Euphemistically the cause of death was given as ‘stillborn’ or ‘exhaustion from inattention at birth’, ‘wilful murder’ being extremely rare24. But disquiet at the health threat involved in these abandonments did however eventually lead to an investigation where it was discovered that certain unscrupulous baby-farmers were guilty of disposing of surplus bodies in this way. In the ensuing outcry, the popular press had a field-day trumpeting its outrage at this wanton “slaughter of the innocents”, with gruesome accounts of dead babies found strangled in railway carriages, in the gutters of London’s streets, in the Thames and even in the ponds of Regent’s Park. For The Saturday Review, such practices as those indulged in by unscrupulous baby-farmers, high-lighted,

  • 25 The Saturday Review, 5.8.1865, p. 161.

“the foul current of life, running like a pestilential sewer beneath the smooth surface of society”25.

12Another paper, The Standard, went a stage further and denounced,

  • 26 William L. Länger, “Infanticide: a historical survey”, History of Childhood Quarterly, vol. 1, no. (...)

“this execrable system of wholesale murder”26

  • 27 Ibid.

13while the Morning Star claimed that it represented “a national institution27. In more measured and more chilling tones the British Medical Journal conceded that,

  • 28 Richard D. Altick, Victorian Studies in Scarlet. London, J. M. Dent and Sons, 1970, p. 285.

“there is not the slightest difficulty in disposing of any number of children, so that they may give no further trouble and never be heard of, at £10 a head”28.

14The chase was on.

  • 29 L. Rose, op. cit., p. 161.
  • 30 Mr. Curgenven mentions a town in Lincolnshire with a population of around 6,000 where one chemist s (...)

15Yet who were the baby farmers? In most cases they were women who took in babies from unmarried mothers who ostensibly at least wished to have the child cared for and brought up against the payment of a lump sum. Tacit to the agreement however was understanding that the baby would never be seen again and, should he die, do so inconspicuously. No qualification of any sort was required of the baby-farmer and no regulatory standards were demanded of them. Nor was the state, local or national, involved in their supervision. Obviously, as befits any profession, the main objective of the baby-farmer was to acquire as many very young babies as possible, for herein lay their livelihood and profit. Yet it takes no great powers of imagination to recognise that once the set fee had been paid for the transaction, the children became a burden on the baby-farmer. In some cases these young infants were sold on to infertile couples but this was rare. More sinister was the practice known as “baby-sweating” which allowed a quick turn-over in live-stock29. In most cases, however, the common practice of drugging young infants with Godfrey’s Cordial, “Quietness” or some other ‘medicine’ laced with laudanum so that they might sleep peacefully and be less demanding, was sufficient in itself to trigger off the downward spiral to a premature death.30. Not surprisingly then the whole system of baby-farming was heavily criticized by people like Robert Parr, the director of the N. S, P. C. C., who called it a,

  • 31 Robert J. Parr, The Baby Farmer. An Exposition and an Appeal. NSPCC. 1909. p. 8.

“wholesale traffic in infant life... The trade is illicit, carried on in the backstreets of the underworld. The negotiations are effected with secrecy, and often by night”31.

  • 32 She was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment in Torquay in 1865.

16Also although baby-farming was centuries old, little attention was given to this occupation until the press got hold of the scandals of newborn infants’ disappearance and death in the later part of the nineteenth century. According to one recent study, the first baby-farming scandal, that of Ann Barnes, of Cambridgeshire, who was accused of poisoning several infants in 1847, was “a rather low-key affair”. Despite the fact that the babies had all died of the same symptoms, Barnes was never tried as the inquest only concluded that the children had died of arsenic poisoning by an unknown person. By the mid-1860s however public feeling was running much higher and when Charlotte Winsor was found guilty of suffocating infants under feather beds, while the mothers waited in an adjacent room, the sentence was much more severe and she only escaped the death penalty as the court were of a ‘tacit but over-ruling opinion’ that infanticide was not murder32.

  • 33 M. Arnot, op. cit., p. 252.
  • 34 The Daily Telegraph and The Times were also used by baby farmers.

17Although with this case the problem of baby-farming was brought to national attention and roused an outcry for reform, nothing was done until another scandal in 1870 when Margaret Waters was executed for her crimes33. Waters, like many baby-farmers operated through the press where she placed unobtrusive adverts in well-known newspapers such as the Sunday Times or Lloyd’s Newspaper, offering to adopt or foster new-born children34. One advertisement read:

  • 35 Patrick Wilson, Murderess. A study of the women executed in Britain since 1843. London, Michael Jos (...)

“Adoption - a good home with a mother’s love and care is offered to a respectable person wishing her child to be entirely adopted. Premium £5, which sum includes everything. Apply by letter only to Mrs Oliver, Post Office, Goar Place, Brixton”35

  • 36 North British Daily Mail. 11 Feb 1871, no. 7462. p. 8.

18North of the border was no different. For the North British Daily Mail in 1871, there was also a system of “infantile extinction” being carried on in and around Edinburgh and Glasgow36. After a nine week campaign of investigation, the editor felt justified in denouncing,

“the disgraceful traffic in adopted children, which constitutes by far the worst feature of baby farming, is carried on almost exclusively by means of advertisement”.

  • 37 Molly Whittington-Egan, The Stockbridge Baby-Farmer and other Scottish Murder Stories. Glasgow, Nei (...)

19Despite subsiding for a time, the problem did not disappear and almost twenty years later, another wave of infanticide shocked the Scottish conscience when Jessie King was found guilty of the murders of two babies and sentenced to death37.

20In England the 1870s saw the problem more and more openly discussed in the press, and according to one commentator,

“1879 was a ‘vintage year’ for baby-farm scandals”.

  • 38 Judith Knelman, Twisting in the Wind, The Murderess and the English Press. Toronto, University of T (...)

21In any case, the increasing severity of the law towards such practices did not seem to stem the flow of court cases, each more gruesome than the next. Annie Took, for instance, was executed for infanticide after admitting that one child she had taken into her care had been dismembered when the money ran out. Catherine and John Barnes also made the headlines when it was proved that they quite openly advertised for babies before systematically disposing of them to make room for more. Crusading press organs like The Sun set out to publicly expose these monsters by answering the small ads where the trade was carried out and “naming and shaming” the culprits (not always successfully as it turned out38). In a series with the chilling title of “the massacre of the innocents”, the paper claimed that in modern civilised England,

  • 39 The Sun, 31 October 1895.

“the killing of children by slow torture is still a profitable and fairly safe means of livelihood”39

  • 40 She used to advertise in the Weekly Dispatch.

22Arguably however the most ‘infamous’ baby farmer of the century was Amelia Dyer of Reading. Dyer was a wholesaler, that is to say, she obtained the babies and either passed them on for adoption or adopted them herself using the innocuous advert40,

“Couple having no child would like the care of one or would adopt one. Terms £10”.

  • 41 Parts of the parcel were still dry and a name and address still legible.

23Where no adoption was possible however, she simply strangled the unfortunate children with tape, wrapped them up with a brick in a carpet-bag (dubbed by the press as the “travelling coffin”) and threw them into the Thames. Her trademark burial technique ultimately proved her undoing41

  • 42 P. Wilson, op. cit., p. 240.

“You’ll know all mine by the tape round their necks”42

24she boasted to police when she was ultimately arrested. She was hanged at the age of 57, the oldest woman to hang in Britain between 1843 and 1955, and has been remembered ever since in the words of a ballad,

“The old baby farmer, the wretched Mrs Dyer,
At the Old Bailey her wages is paid,
In times long ago we’d ‘a’ made a big fy-er
And roasted so nicely that wicked old jade.”

  • 43 J. Knelman, op. cit., p. 174.
  • 44 Norman Lucas, The Child Killers. London, A. Barker Ltd., 1970, p. 25,
  • 45 This case was described by the Child’s Guardian as “slow death that should be murder” and given twe (...)
  • 46 L. Rose, op. cit., p. 167.

25Baby-farming related crime continued to shock the nation well after the execution of Dyer as other child murders were exposed through the courts. Ada Chard Williams in December 1899, for instance, was arrested and later hanged for the murder of a baby she had ‘acquired’ for the sum of ten pounds. Her technique of disposing of the body by wrapping it up in brown paper and throwing it into the Thames, when finally discovered, led the Metropolitan police to dredge the river with appalling results43. Even well into the twentieth century similar ‘diabolical’ money-making schemes involving the killing of infants and the callous disposal of the unwanted corpses were still being uncovered, such as the “nursing home” case of Amelia Sach and Annie Walters44, the Hockley affair45 in 1903 or that of Leslie James, the last person to be executed for such crimes in 190746. Over the period 1870 to 1907, no fewer than eight people were sentenced to death for child murder in England and Wales while many others received lesser sentences. One is left to wonder, however, just how many of these and similar crimes went undetected and unpunished.

  • 47 R. Sauer, op. cit., p. 87.
  • 48 Wm. B. Ryan, op. cit., p. 70.

26Yet just how far this trade in infant mortality actually went will probably never be known for the fine line separating the legitimate from the illegitimate is a narrow one at times. Not unnaturally for instance, given the extremely high rate of infant mortality during the century and popular hostility to communal burials, a sizeable pecuniary interest grew up around the question of funereal arrangements. Child insurance and burial clubs were created to alleviate the suffering involved but their potential for abuse47 was such that they have been described as one of the most “fertile sources of infant mortality”48. In itself the system was a sensible one, and as such openly encouraged by well-minded members of society. The Secretary of the Royal Liver Friendly Society for instance, encouraged people to prepare for the worse,

  • 49 Evidence given before the Select Committee considering the Children’s Life Insurance Bill, 1891, p. (...)

“I think people should ensure shortly after the birth of the child. When the child is bom they have the fear that they may be called upon perhaps (knowing how precarious child-life is) to go to the expense of a funeral and they should provide early for these things”49.

  • 50 John Clay, Burial Clubs and Infanticide in England. Preston, 1854, p. 8.
  • 51 L. G. Housden, The Prevention of Cruelty to Children. London, Jonathan Cape, 1955, p. 124.

27Unfortunately the system was also very much open to abuse, by unscrupulous parents and the loophole of multiple insurances - one man was known to have insured his children in 19 different clubs in Manchester50. As the statistics gradually became available the extent of the problem became more and more alarming. In Preston, for example, it was discovered that infants of labouring men who did not insure their child, died at the rate of 36% before the age of five, whereas those insured in the burial clubs, died at the rate of 62-64%, and similar results were found in other industrial towns in the Midlands51. The conclusions were obvious to all, as doctors more and more openly asserted that child-life insurance,

“is certainly, with the lower class, an inducement to neglect children”.

28By the end of the century, the Irish Registrar-General felt compelled to denounce publicly,

  • 52 Benjamin Waugh, The Results of Child Life Insurance. London, NSPCC, 1891, p. 6.

“the way in which children are allowed to die so that insurance money may be had for them is a disgrace to the whole nation”52.

  • 53 Pamela Horn, The Victorian Town Child, Stroud, Sutton Publishing. 1997, p. 147.
  • 54 One judge declared that, “through these ‘deadly societies’, the prisoners had put themselves in a p (...)
  • 55 In 1854 he suggested a law where the Burial Society itself dealt with the burying of the corpse and (...)

29Yet for all the protests, child life insurance by even the most respectable of companies, such as The Prudential, continued to be a feature of the British way of life of the Victorian period53 with little or no interference from the State. Despite the protests from the courts to the Home Office54, despite practical suggestions for reform advanced by figures such as Lord Shaftesbury55 no legislation was forthcoming from successive governments.

  • 56 When midwives were eventually recognised by the State, At various times in the 19th century, privat (...)
  • 57 When authorities had to be informed of the death of the infant or if the child was moved to someone (...)

30So why then did the State fail so abjectly to respond to such pressure? Among the various strands of answer to this question, there was certainly the deep-rooted conviction that responsibility for the child ultimately lay with the parents (so what’s changed today). At the same time, legislation when eventually passed, tended to be ineffective and difficult to implement. The vested interests of such institutions as Royal Colleges of Nursing did their utmost, for instance, to prevent the education and qualification of midwives and the medical profession stood solid as a rock against five separate reform projects between 1890 and 1902 on the same question56. The police authorities, it has to be said, seemed generally uninterested in the whole issue of baby farming and only intervened if there was an enquiry into the death of an infant or if there was a complaint. What little was achieved, has to be put soundly at the door of individual initiatives such as the campaign fought by medical and non-medical activists which ultimately resulted in the passing of the Infant Life Protection Act of 1872. This Act ensured compulsory registration of all houses where more than one child was in care for a period longer than 24 hours. All deaths had to be reported immediately and there was a fine of £5 or imprisonment if the law was not respected. It had little effect against those baby farmers who kept only one infant at a time or “adopted” older children. Not until 1897 was this Act repealed and replaced by stronger legislation which compelled anyone having more than one child under the age of 5, or adopting a child under two for a lump sum, to inform the local authorities who were empowered to inspect these children. Even this reform did not go far enough as it excluded women taking in only one child at a time. Not until the Children’s Act of 1908 did the whole question of child abuse and child deaths receive serious consideration with local authorities empowered to appoint infants’protection visitors57 with the right to remove any child not being cared for properly, but by then over fifty years of child abuse had passed since the first scandal had erupted.

31All in all then the fascination shown by Victorian society for the welfare and well-being of its young is one of the strongest and most undeniable features of the period. In many ways the public outpourings of love and affection for the young and the stated desire to cocoon them in what would hopefully be a “wonderland of childhood” is an enduring image, one which is handed down to millions of British people in the form of Christmas card images each year. Yet, like those same Christmas cards, the gloss of the image is but skin deep and when peeled back leaves us staring at a reality whose rawness makes for disturbing reading.

Bibliographie

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. BOOKS

altick Richard D., Victorian Studies in Scarlet. London, J. M. Dent and Sons, 1970, 336p.

arnot Margaret, Gender in Focus: Infanticide in England 1840-1880. University of Essex, Ph. D., 1994, 313p.

curgenven J. B., “On baby-farming and the registration of nurses”. National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, London, 1869.

davin Anna, Growing up Poor: Home, School and Street in London 1870-1914. London, Rivers Oram, 1995, 289p.

greenwood James, The Seven Curses of London. Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1981, 293p.

hendrick Harry, Children, Childhood and English Society 1880-1990. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1997, 114p.

jackson Mark (ed.), Infanticide. Historical Perspectives on Child Murder and Concealment, 1550-2000. Aldershot, Ashgate Publishing, 2002, 293p.

knelman Judith, Twisting in the Wind. The Murderess and the English Press. Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1998, 322p.

länger William L., “Infanticide: a historical survey”, History of Childhood Quarterly, vol. 1, no. 3, 1974, p. 353-65.

lucas Norman, The Child Killers. London, A. Barker Ltd., 1970, 239p.

parr Robert J., The Baby Farmer. An Exposition and an Appeal. NSPCC. 1909, 77 p.

pinchbeck Ivy and Hewitt Margaret, Children in English Society, vol. 11, From the eighteenth century to the Children Act of 1948. London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1973, 671 p.

rose Lionel, Massacre of the Innocents. Infanticide in Great Britain 1800-1939. London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986, 215 p.

ryan William B., Infanticide: its Law, prevalence, prevention and history. London, Churchill, 1862, 266 p.

sauer r., “Infanticide and Abortion in Nineteenth Century Britain”, Population Studies, vol. 32, 1978, p. 81-93.

smith F. B., The People’s Health 1830-1910. London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, 440p.

whittington-egan Molly, The Stockbridge Baby-Farmer and other Scottish Murder Stories. Glasgow, Neil Wilson Publishing, 2001, 184 p.

wilson Patrick, Murderess. A Study of the Women Executed in Britain since 1843. London, Michael Joseph, 1971, 318p.

wohl Anthony, Endangered Lives. Public Health in Victorian Britain. London, Methuen, 1984, 440p.

2. ARCHIVES (PUBLIC RECORD OFFICE, KEW, LONDON)

- HO12/193/92230: Old Criminal (OC) Papers, 1849-1871.

- HO45/10069/B5959: Children: Insurance of Children. 1884-1907.

- MEPO 2/399: Murder – Baby fanning Infant Life Protection Act, 1896.

Notes

1 F. M. L. Thompson, The Cambridge Social History of Britain 1750-1950, Volume 2. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990, p. 108.

2 Sir Percy Alden, Halley Stuart Lecture, 1936. Ivy Pinchbeck and Margaret Hewitt, Children in English Society, vol. II, From the eighteenth century to the Children Act of 1948. London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1973, p. 347-348.

3 One author even went so far as to affirm that the coming century would be that of the child. Ellen Key, The Century of the Child. In Hugh Cunningham, The Children of the Poor. Representations of Childhood since the 17th century, London, Blackwell, 1991, p. 163.

4 The Times, 7 October 1913.

5 Hugh Cunningham, op. cit., p. 51.

6 Special schools for the blind and deaf were made available from 1893.

7 Harry Hendrick, Children, Childhood and English Society 1880-1990. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1997, p. 39.

8 Anna Davin, Growing up poor: home, school and street in London 1870-1914. London, Rivers Oram, 1995, p. 211.

9 Even as late as 1899-1903 in Glasgow the infant mortality rate for illegitimate children was 276, for legitimate 137 per 1000 live births.

10 Anthony Wohl, Endangered Lives. Public Health in Victorian Britain, London, Methuen, 1984, p. 23. George K. Behlmer, Child abuse and moral reform in England 1870-1908. California, Stanford University Press, 1982, p. 18.

11 Lionel Rose, Massacre of the innocents. Infanticide in Great Britain 1800-1939. London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986, p. 7.

12 William B. Ryan, Infanticide: its law, prevalence, prevention and history. London, Churchill, 1862, p. 3.

13 R. Sauer, “Infanticide and abortion in nineteenth century Britain”, Population Studies, vol. 32, 1978, p. 81.

14 Mark Jackson ed., Infanticide, Historical perspectives on child murder and concealment, 1550-2000. Aldershot, Ashgate Publishing, 2002. p. 256.

15 Margaret Arnot, Gender in Focus: Infanticide in England 1840-1880. University of Essex, Ph. D., 1994, p. 144.

16 A. WOHL, op. cit., p. 11.

17 Dorothy L, Haller, Bastardy and baby-farming in Victorian England. Http.//loyno.edu/history/journal/1989-0/haller.htm

18 A. Wohl, op. cit., p. 17.

19 T. E. Kebbel, Selected speeches of the Earl of Beaconsfield, vol. II, London, 1882, p. 494.

20 L. G. Housden, The Prevention of Cruelty to Children. London, Jonathan Cape, 1955, p. 28. In 1866 the Home Secretary Spencer Walpole considered giving the mother a three month period of grace after the birth of her child whereas others preferred the French system of a three-day exemption. It was eventually decided on an act making it an offence “punishable with penal servitude or imprisonment at the discretion of the court unlawfully and maliciously to inflict grievous bodily harm... upon a child during its birth or within seven days afterwards.... No proof that the child was completely born alive should be required”.

21 J. B. Curgenven, “On baby-farming and the registration of nurses”. National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, London, 1869.

22 R. Sauer, op. cit., p. 87.

23 The Times, 26 November 1867, p. 4.

24 MEPO 2/399 under the Infant Life Protection Act 1872.

25 The Saturday Review, 5.8.1865, p. 161.

26 William L. Länger, “Infanticide: a historical survey”, History of Childhood Quarterly, vol. 1, no. 3, 1974, p. 361.

27 Ibid.

28 Richard D. Altick, Victorian Studies in Scarlet. London, J. M. Dent and Sons, 1970, p. 285.

29 L. Rose, op. cit., p. 161.

30 Mr. Curgenven mentions a town in Lincolnshire with a population of around 6,000 where one chemist sells around 25 gallons of “soothing cordial” annually and another sells six pints weekly for the “quieting of children”; he declared that this was extensively practised throughout the whole of the midland counties. Parliamentary Report of the Select Committee for the Protection of Infant Life, Mr Curgenven.

31 Robert J. Parr, The Baby Farmer. An Exposition and an Appeal. NSPCC. 1909. p. 8.

32 She was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment in Torquay in 1865.

33 M. Arnot, op. cit., p. 252.

34 The Daily Telegraph and The Times were also used by baby farmers.

35 Patrick Wilson, Murderess. A study of the women executed in Britain since 1843. London, Michael Joseph, 1971, p. 158.

36 North British Daily Mail. 11 Feb 1871, no. 7462. p. 8.

37 Molly Whittington-Egan, The Stockbridge Baby-Farmer and other Scottish Murder Stories. Glasgow, Neil Wilson Publishing, 2001, Chapter 1.

38 Judith Knelman, Twisting in the Wind, The Murderess and the English Press. Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1998, p. 174,

39 The Sun, 31 October 1895.

40 She used to advertise in the Weekly Dispatch.

41 Parts of the parcel were still dry and a name and address still legible.

42 P. Wilson, op. cit., p. 240.

43 J. Knelman, op. cit., p. 174.

44 Norman Lucas, The Child Killers. London, A. Barker Ltd., 1970, p. 25,

45 This case was described by the Child’s Guardian as “slow death that should be murder” and given twelve years’ penal servitude. According to Patrick WILSON, op. cit., p. 164, 8 were hanged between 1870 and 1907, Margaret Waters, Annie Took, Jessie King, Mrs Dyer, Mrs Chard Williams, Mrs Sach and Mrs Walters and Leslie James. Charlotte Winsor is the only reprieved baby farmer who has been traced. He does not mention Miss Hockley.

46 L. Rose, op. cit., p. 167.

47 R. Sauer, op. cit., p. 87.

48 Wm. B. Ryan, op. cit., p. 70.

49 Evidence given before the Select Committee considering the Children’s Life Insurance Bill, 1891, p. 17.

50 John Clay, Burial Clubs and Infanticide in England. Preston, 1854, p. 8.

51 L. G. Housden, The Prevention of Cruelty to Children. London, Jonathan Cape, 1955, p. 124.

52 Benjamin Waugh, The Results of Child Life Insurance. London, NSPCC, 1891, p. 6.

53 Pamela Horn, The Victorian Town Child, Stroud, Sutton Publishing. 1997, p. 147.

54 One judge declared that, “through these ‘deadly societies’, the prisoners had put themselves in a position to make a profit by the death of these children. That was the effect of these societies where they existed and such societies should have been stamped out by the legislative long ago”. HO45/10069/B5959.

55 In 1854 he suggested a law where the Burial Society itself dealt with the burying of the corpse and that “not one farthing be paid to the parents or persons having custody of the children” The Times, Dec. 13th, 1854.

56 When midwives were eventually recognised by the State, At various times in the 19th century, private schools had sold diplomas to midwives but the standards were very low and the midwives learned their profession by ‘trial and error’. F. B. Smith, The People’s Health 1830-1910. London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 45.

57 When authorities had to be informed of the death of the infant or if the child was moved to someone else’s care. 1907 - Notification of Births Act. Health visitors could call on mothers of new born babies. Notification of birth within 36 hours.

Auteur

GRAAT EA 2113
Université Francois-Rabelais de Tours

© Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 2005

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