Sunday, 7 August 2005
'Baby-farmers' in Victorian London
A Dickensian Life - Oliver Twist epitomizes the life of an abandoned child in Victorian London
A wealth of information on the lives of London's poor during the Victorian era, can be found in Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor. Contraception was not really understood or practiced in those days, so inevitably the poor would have children which many times they were not able to look after. Some were so poor they could not let their children out to play because they had no clothes for them. Thus we have the story of one mother, whose kids got out onto the street wearing nothing but some bits from an old sack. Parents were many times in prison, in the workhouse or dead.
The 'baby-farmer' was sort of like a baby-sitter but with a more sinister twist. While the parents or single mother worked, the children would be entrusted to the 'baby-farmer' to be looked after, for a fee of course. One tragic story tells of a mother who earning 6s and 3s a week making paper bags, put her baby in the care of one of these, paid her 4s and 6d , only to find out after a while that her baby had died because the carer was a drunk and did not look after the baby.
In the newspapers of the time there could often be found adverts such as this:
"Adoption: A person wishing a lasting and comfortable home for a young child of either sex will find this is a good opportunity. Advertisers having no children of their own are about to proceed to America. Premium £15"
Yes, for a fee of £12 to £15 these 'baby-farmers' would relieve the parents of all responsibility for the child. The newly 'adopted' children were usually disposed of as soon as was practically possible; they were either murdered or taken to some other part of London, where they were abandoned and left to fend for themselves.
Posted by Anna at Sunday, August 07, 2005