Tag: Midwife

Midwives, Abortion, and the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861

The Convalescence by Gustave Léonard de Jonghe, (1829-1893).
The Convalescence by Gustave Léonard de Jonghe, (1829-1893).

Under the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861, any pregnant woman who acted with intent to “procure her own miscarriage” was guilty of a felony and could, if convicted, be sentenced to “penal servitude for life.”  This same law that punished women who attempted to rid themselves of an unwanted pregnancy also punished the nurses and midwives who were frequently engaged to assist them.  In most cases, it was impossible to enforce the law.  However, when a woman died as a result of complications following an abortion, the person who had performed the procedure could be charged with murder and even sentenced to death.[…]Continue Reading

The Shocking Death of Victorian Servant Eliza Bollends

A Scullery Maid at Work by Charles Joseph Grips, 1866.
A Scullery Maid at Work by Charles Joseph Grips, 1866.

Many historical novels feature a serving girl who has gotten herself into “trouble.”  In fiction, the understanding mistress of the house is quick to intervene and, in short order, the serving girl’s future is secured to everyone’s satisfaction.  In reality, female servants of the 19th century were expected to preserve their reputations in order to maintain genteel employment.  The character of one’s servants was a reflection on the house as a whole.  To that end, no respectable Victorian lady wanted a light-skirt for a housemaid or a wanton for a cook, and many mistresses strictly forbade male callers or “hangers on.” […]Continue Reading

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