The Way We Were – Single Mums

The anniversary of Ann Lovett’s death has just passed. Lest we forget

There was no easy way out of
the trap of unmarried motherhood in Ireland. There was infanticide, of course.
infanticideMothers or other relatives ‘distraught’ by the birth outside marriage and grieving lost ‘respectability’, undoubtedly killed babies and infants.

Between 1922 and 1950, 183 women stood trial for the murder of a newborn.

Breaking the Fifth Commandment – ‘Thou shalt not kill’ –
was preferable to incurring Church hatred of babies born outside marriage.
Despite assertions regarding the sanctity of motherhood, the reality was that children were only welcomed when born within “wedlock‟.

Demonising those born outside marriage
boy and girl

Comment: Which one?
was the most effective means to ensure the vast majority of marriageable people had a Church wedding.Furthermore, under the control of the Catholic Church Ireland had long viewed sex as a sin.
Women were allowed sexual freedom only within marriage and even then only with a view to conceiving.
single mother
 Churching” (blessing after childbirth)

A purification ritual.  Imposed to cleanse the wife of the “sin” of having had the sex which resulted in the baby being conceived.

unmarried mother

She undermined the sanctity of the family and even though it takes two to tango men largely escaped notice or sanction.

She had to be “punished” by society for her “deviant” ways.

Since an abnormally high value was placed on chastity and self-restraint, Irish attitudes and prejudices demanded social exclusion, ostracism and intense disapproval.

These women who were “damaged goods“, shameful female sinners according to the moral standards of a thou-shalt-not Catholic society.

She had to live
The old eugenic attitude saw single mothers and their children as inherently inferior. Illegitimacy was an  unacceptable stigma. It  created shame and controversy for families and society and stayed with children into adult life.

Sometimes  such babies were called 

spawn of devil
the spawn of Satan”, which encouraged the more rabid  to literally
beat the devil out

Since the women shamed  themselves and their families, keeping the pregnancy secret and having the baby adopted was a priority . Many frightened young  girls  preferred suicide and/or infanticide to the dreadful  status of

unmarried mother

Dealing with  ” the problem

The Catholic Church created the problem.

They created the rules that led to abuse of women and children born out of wedlock

 Then they created a solution that was not abortion but a product.

These are very basic rules of business.

This is the secret history of Ireland and the Irish State

Step 1 – Takeover

When a girl became pregnant outside marriage, she lost control of her life. She was sent to a mother-and-baby home (orphanage) run by religious orders.
Some women made the choice themselves to go to institutions and have their babies secretly – but if they had not made that choice, then the choice would have been made for them and the outcome would have been exactly the same.

Step 2 – Eliminate all other options
no way out
The pressure was irresistible.
no child care services
no homes available to rent
no work
no father for the child
what part no

Shunned by family and friends,
no option

some fathers of their children would have nothing to do with them.

young man

Others were frightened by the taboo on pregnancy before marriage.

Some were denied contact with their girlfriends.
girl crying
Others breathed a sigh of relief that the “problem” was being dealt with.

The women’s chances of proving paternity in court were almost non-existent.

Step 3 – Hide the truth

church lies

SECRECY was the name of the game –

The neighbours were told “She’s gone away to work“.

While she was in the institution she wore a uniform and had her name changed.

Letters and contact with the outside world were vigorously censored.

The baby was given up for adoption

This unbroken web  was never challenged.

Alone, frightened, a young unmarried woman–a sinner—

penitent woman

stands before stern nuns, a priest, lawyers and a notary at a Dublin orphanage  and is coerced to sign away her baby.

woman signing 2

I certify that I have handed over my daughter to custody. I surrender her completely to charge,” .

“I solemnly promise that I shall never interfere with her in any way in future.”

woman signing 2

She was given no role whatsoever in the adoption process. She signs, then vanishes.

baby passport


The child trafficking  trade was administered by nuns and covered up by the Irish Government.

Conventional wisdom saw the export of babies as good for Ireland–an embarrassment removed–and good for the babies.

This is a political story involving a sovereign state and its inactions to protect its citizens and a global church that professes Christianity love, truth and respect, but is engaged, in this instance, in joint venture acts of appalling inhumanity and cruelty.

Nobody so far has been held to account for this practice;  no Garda  or Interpol investigations; nobody from the Aer Lingus or Pan Am airlines that actually trafficked the children out of Ireland has been confronted.


Philomena Lee was forced to give her three-year-old son up for adoption in rural Ireland in 1952.Her story has been made into a film – Philomena – starring Dame Judi Dench.Mrs Lee has now launched a campaign calling for the release of more than 60,000 adoption files held by the Irish state, churches and private agencies.

Step 4 – Return to society
She returned to her own family with everybody’s reputation intact.
get a life
Never tell anyone about your shame
so “wrong-doing” was silenced.
Many of these mothers have howled inside with the pain of it for the rest of their lives,

Others were grateful for anonymity and a second chance with the opportunity to work, marry and raise families in the normal way by ensuring that nobody knew their secret.

The Unexpected Step 5 –  Reuniting mother and child.

lriuniting mother and child

Women in their 60s are lying to their husbands, inventing excuses to sneak away to rendezvous with secret children whose existence they cannot publicly acknowledge decades later.

I’ve been married to him for 30 years; I can’t tell him now,

Others are refusing to meet their children.

refusal fem
Some women never married and live in small towns where they have local reputation as the ‘good spinster.’
Many elderly women find it very difficult to return to a painful situation.

Many don’t have the courage or ability to look at it again in their declining years.

How can they come forward now to publicly embrace a child no one ever knew they had?

The least fortunate of all unwed mothers found themselves working as virtual prisoners in the Magdalene laundries run by orders of nuns – a system which Irish Government departments asked the religious orders to introduce in the 1930s, according to one reliable account.

Some remained in these institutions for years, some for decades and some for life.

Lest we forget – The Magdalene sisters

Click to access 26017.pdf

Click to access Ryan.pdf

5 thoughts on “The Way We Were – Single Mums

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  4. Ben : Where do you get the time to do all this. ? You must stay up nights!!! All very valid, mind. It all boils down to first controlling women and then by extension , the rest of society . The churches and religion are all built on that same ethos..
    On an aside , I’ve just uploaded a new story. Jude haskindly featured a version of it it on his site but here’s the original….


  5. thanks for the comment Paddy – research does take time . I think it ìs time well spent
    It is important to get the message out there so people will start asking questions and searching for answers
    On the other hand, reading the posts and watching the videos take up the readers’ time.
    I hope they think it is time well spent and that it enables them to think less automatically about issues and work out a personal response.
    And talking about personal responses – Thanks for sending me your new story – I’ll make an effort to read it over the weekend but am working hard Sat and Sun (there’s no rest for the wicked) as I have exam deadlines to meet and am well behind schedule at the moment.
    I am trying to whip up enthusiasm for putting my nose to the grindstone over the weekend!


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