Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Getting a pauper mother married

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

James Ward, Mother and Infant
Loretta reports:

You may need a little explanation about the following tale from the 1849 Annual Register.

An unwed pauper mother's parish was responsible for her and her child’s upkeep.  Keeping people in parish workhouses, horrible as they were (see Dickens), cost money.  Thus the parish officers’ willingness to pay (bribe?) up front to make sure the woman got married and became her spouse’s responsibility.
—A Pauper Marriage—.

Mary Ann Rowland, a woman with a child in her arms, was brought before a magistrate at Bow Street, on a question connected with her settlement, when she made the following curious statement:— That she having a claim by right of birth to support from Christ Church parish, she was induced by the authorities there to consent to marry a man who belonged to another parish, and that she had received the sum of 4l. for such service; that she had put up the banns for the man whose wife she had intended to become and herself, but that her lover at the eleventh hour refused to enter the church, and that, consequently, she had been obliged to get another man to adopt his name; that in her anxiety to oblige her parish, she had prevailed upon a sailor to go to church with her, and marry her in the name of the person to whom she had been engaged, and that she handed over, as the price of that accommodation, the sum of 1l. to the sailor, who thereupon went about his business, without having had anything more to do with her.

Sir J. Key.—How long did you live with your husband?
Defendant (laughing).—I never lived with him at all. He was going off to sea, and off he went.
Sir J. Key.—What! the moment he married you?
Defendant.—Yes; he only waited to get his sovereign, and then he cut away. (Laughter.)
Sir J. Key.—Do you recollect his name?

A Married Sailor's Adieu
Defendant.—I think it was John Kelly. (Laughter.)
Sir J. Key.—Do you happen to know the name of the man to whom you expected to be married?
Defendant.—Yes; Joseph Murray. We were called three times, but he would not come and be married, I suppose because he did not consider the parish gave enough. (Laughter.) 4l. was but a small fortune.

The parish officers represented the case to be, that the woman being with child, and representing that the father was willing to marry her, they furnished the money required to supply a little furniture, and sent an official to see the ceremony duly performed. They had no idea of the substitution.
Annual Register, Chronicle, December 1849

Images: James Ward, Mother and Infant ca 1798; Julius Caesar Ibbetson, A Married Sailor's Adieu ca. 1800. Both courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will allow you to read at the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.


Nancy said...

I hadn't heard of the parish committee paying anyone to marry, though efforts were always made to make the pregnant pauper name the father of her child so he could be asked for child support. pregnant paupers were also taken out of one parish and pushed into another so that her baby would be the responsibility of a different parish. There were quite a few law suits about which parish would have to support the paupers. Settlement was a serius matter to parish committees.

LorettaChase said...

How were they taken out of the parish? When she says she belongs to a parish, one assumes she's known there and lives there???

Peter Russell said...

Great story.

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