This book is about the meanings and experiences of lone mothers in eighteenth-century London. It explores the material lives of men and women who produced legitimate and illegitimate offspring and examines those lives within a shared social, economic and cultural plebeian context. It examines how women coped when they found themselves pregnant, the consequences of bearing an illegitimate child and poor women's survival networks. It does so by exploring the encounters between poor women and the parish as well as philanthropic authorities in the city. This study of London's lone mothers has implications for the history of gender relations, the family and sexuality, the social, economic and cultural circumstances of plebeians, employer/servant relations, philanthropy and poverty.
1. Introduction -- 2. 'The insecurities of life and trade' : work, community and personal life in eighteenth-century London -- 3. Courtship, sex and marriage in eighteenth-century popular literature -- 4. 'Craving charity' : poor mothers and the public philanthropic imagination -- 5. 'Unfortunate objects' : petitioners to the founding hospital -- 6. The duty of poor mothers in eighteenth-century London -- 7. Childbirth -- 8. 'Be so good as to remember where this child goes to' : poor but not hopeless.