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Sinners? Scroungers? Saints?Unmarried Motherhood in Twentieth-Century England$
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Pat Thane and Tanya Evans

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199578504

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199578504.001.0001

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Between the Wars

Between the Wars

Chapter:
(p.29) 2 Between the Wars
Source:
Sinners? Scroungers? Saints?
Author(s):

Pat Thane

Tanya Evans

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199578504.003.0003

How unmarried mothers and their children survived in interwar Britain. This chapter describes how difficult it was for women to obtain maintenance from the father through the courts. It emphasizes the humiliating process of applying for Poor Law relief, the only public welfare available, which even led to some unmarried mothers being placed in mental hospitals. Charity: the NC did its best to help and made innovative use of media, including radio, television, and film to raise funds for an unpopular cause. Its campaigns to change the law to improve provision. It is unknown how many fathers voluntarily helped, when they could afford it. Many could not in a period of high unemployment, especially if they had other families. Unmarried mothers experienced many difficulties with housing. Difficulty of finding a home of their own: prejudice of landlords. Still many mothers cohabited with the fathers or lived with their parents, accepted by their communities. Stories of middle-class cohabitation and unmarried motherhood, including well-known writers such as Rebecca West.

Keywords:   unmarried mothers, illegitimacy, voluntary action, charity, family history, welfare history, Poor Law, divorce, cohabitation

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