Good Enough Mothering? Feminist Perspectives on Lone Motherhood

By Elizabeth Bortolaia Silva | Go to book overview

NOTES
1
One should not forget the pioneering work of Sally Mclntyre (1976) on the ideology of motherhood and the response of the medical profession to pregnancy in married and unmarried women.
2
These are questions that radical feminism has been asking for some time of course.
3
I use the term ‘strategy’ in the Foucaultian sense, in that I do not presume that there was a specific group of people or of interests that devised this strategy with a clearly articulated purpose or aim.
4
This was mirrored in the measures introduced to control baby farming and to end the practice of allowing parents to insure the lives of their infants. Both of these practices were seen as ways of, or as encouragements to, the snuffing out of infant life. The first involved mothers sending their children to minders for up to a year. During that period they would not see the child and it was highly likely that the child would die, especially if the rates of pay were low. The policy of allowing parents to ‘benefit’ financially from the death of an infant was stopped because it was believed that it simply encouraged poor mothers to allow their children to die.
5
As Beatrice and Sydney Webb stated in 1910, ‘In the ignorance and listlessness, and absence of standards, which characterise whole sections of slum-dwelling families, there was… the very minimum of fulfilment of parental responsibility…. It is the watchful influence by inspection and visitation, advice and instruction, brought to bear on the mother… that evokes the sense of responsibility, guides and assists its fulfilment, imposes the higher obligations of rising standards… in the working class mother of the present day.’ (See Clarke et al. 1987:67.)
6
Both of these requirements could be very difficult for working-class parents who might only have one room, or who could only afford to heat one room and so on. Anna Martin, writing in Common Cause in 1911, notes that ‘If a baby is to survive, Harley Street tells us, it must have plenty of air and space, abundant mother’s milk or satisfactory substitute, regular hours for food and sleep, and exercise. All these the typical Hampstead baby has, none of these are available for the average Bermondsey one.’ See Clarke et al (1987:68).
7
It might, for example, now be argued that the Queen was not a good mother to Charles because she was so distant and because she sent him to boarding school.
8
In fact illegitimacy rates did fall considerably in the 1950s, but began to rise again a decade later.
9
The Children Act 1989.

-57-

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