LONDON-L ArchivesArchiver > LONDON > 2002-04 > 1019714530
From: Liz <>
Subject: Re: [Lon] Illegitimate Births - How old was the average age of the girls/women involved
Date: Thu, 25 Apr 2002 07:02:10 +0100
> Does anybody have any ideas about the average ages at which girls were likely to have illegitimate births in, for example, the early - mid 1800s. My reason for asking is that I am debating with a colleague at the moment on the likelihood of a particular person being a likely unmarried mother. At the time of the birth of the child, if this woman were the mother, she would be 17/18 years of age. My colleague feels that this is too young, and that most illegitimate births took place when the women were in their 20s, usually once they had moved away from home.
> What do others think, please.
I think your colleague is wrong <g>
An example is my 3gt grandma, Susannah BAKER in 1823. She turned up with
a baby for baptism at St Mary, Newington, aged 19 (pregnant at 18). She
claimed to be married to one Edward DREW and the baby was baptised as
legitimate son of Susannah and Edward DREW. They actually married the
following year in another Parish!
Girls of the working class did indeed leave home very young to go into
service and although the employers were expected to monitor their morals
it was sometimes the very employer or a male relative who exploited the
young female servant.
In the middle and upper classes young women would normally stay in their
father's house until marriage. There were fortune hunters and seducers
who might hope to force a marriage to a wealthy girl .... but they are
more common in fiction than fact <g>
In the early part of the 19th century in some rural communities old
customs still prevailed and many brides were pregnant at the altar with
no problem ... but if the pregnancy did not lead to marriage all the
stigma of illegitimacy fell upon the poor girl. Every effort would be
made by parents and the authorities to make the father at least pay up
for the child's support.
Liz (Greenwich UK)