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In the Family Way: Illegitimacy Between the Great War and the Swinging Sixties

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Unmarried mothers, absent fathers, orphaned children - Jane Robinson's In the Family Way is a truly gripping book about long-buried secrets, family bonds and unlikely heroes. Only a generation or two ago, illegitimacy was one of the most shameful things that could happen in a family. Unmarried mothers were considered immoral, single fathers feckless and bastard children inh Unmarried mothers, absent fathers, orphaned children - Jane Robinson's In the Family Way is a truly gripping book about long-buried secrets, family bonds and unlikely heroes. Only a generation or two ago, illegitimacy was one of the most shameful things that could happen in a family. Unmarried mothers were considered immoral, single fathers feckless and bastard children inherently defective. They were hidden away from friends and relations as guilty secrets, punished by society and denied their place in the family tree. Today, the concept of illegitimacy no longer exists in law, and babies' parents are as likely to be unmarried as married. This revolution in public opinion makes it easy to forget what it was really like to give birth, or be born, out of wedlock in the years between World War One and the dawn of the Permissive Age. By speaking to those involved - many of whom have never felt able to talk about their experiences before - Jane Robinson reveals a story not only of shame and appalling prejudice, but also of triumph and the every-day strength of the human spirit. In the Family Way tells secrets kept for entire lifetimes and rescues from the shadows an important part of all our family histories. In it we hear long-silent voices from the workhouse, the Magdalene Laundry or the distant mother-and-baby home. Anonymous childhoods are recalled, spent in the care of Dr Barnardo or a Child Migration scheme halfway across the world. There are sorrowful stories in this book, but it is also about hope: about supportive families who defied social expectations by welcoming 'love-children' home, or those who were parted and are now reconciled. Most of all, In the Family Way is about finally telling the truth.


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Unmarried mothers, absent fathers, orphaned children - Jane Robinson's In the Family Way is a truly gripping book about long-buried secrets, family bonds and unlikely heroes. Only a generation or two ago, illegitimacy was one of the most shameful things that could happen in a family. Unmarried mothers were considered immoral, single fathers feckless and bastard children inh Unmarried mothers, absent fathers, orphaned children - Jane Robinson's In the Family Way is a truly gripping book about long-buried secrets, family bonds and unlikely heroes. Only a generation or two ago, illegitimacy was one of the most shameful things that could happen in a family. Unmarried mothers were considered immoral, single fathers feckless and bastard children inherently defective. They were hidden away from friends and relations as guilty secrets, punished by society and denied their place in the family tree. Today, the concept of illegitimacy no longer exists in law, and babies' parents are as likely to be unmarried as married. This revolution in public opinion makes it easy to forget what it was really like to give birth, or be born, out of wedlock in the years between World War One and the dawn of the Permissive Age. By speaking to those involved - many of whom have never felt able to talk about their experiences before - Jane Robinson reveals a story not only of shame and appalling prejudice, but also of triumph and the every-day strength of the human spirit. In the Family Way tells secrets kept for entire lifetimes and rescues from the shadows an important part of all our family histories. In it we hear long-silent voices from the workhouse, the Magdalene Laundry or the distant mother-and-baby home. Anonymous childhoods are recalled, spent in the care of Dr Barnardo or a Child Migration scheme halfway across the world. There are sorrowful stories in this book, but it is also about hope: about supportive families who defied social expectations by welcoming 'love-children' home, or those who were parted and are now reconciled. Most of all, In the Family Way is about finally telling the truth.

30 review for In the Family Way: Illegitimacy Between the Great War and the Swinging Sixties

  1. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    **3.5 STARS** An informed and well researched look at illegitimacy, at a time when humanity in its wisdom, thought it was ok to label a child a 'bastard' for having been born out of wedlock. For some unfortunates, they were stuck with that label for life, it became something by which they were defined. The book looks at what happened to some of these children and their mothers, and it doesn't make for an easy read. It's hard to believe now, but not so many decades ago, the worst, most shameful th **3.5 STARS** An informed and well researched look at illegitimacy, at a time when humanity in its wisdom, thought it was ok to label a child a 'bastard' for having been born out of wedlock. For some unfortunates, they were stuck with that label for life, it became something by which they were defined. The book looks at what happened to some of these children and their mothers, and it doesn't make for an easy read. It's hard to believe now, but not so many decades ago, the worst, most shameful thing that could happen in a family was for a daughter to be pregnant and unmarried. She would be looked on in the community as immoral, and would often be sent away to a home for unmarried mothers, and then forced into giving the baby up for adoption. The ramifications of these actions are related to us in interviews with both the mothers and the children themselves. Some of the children were left in the 'care' of orphanages and other institutions, (though I use the word 'care' lightly) some with horrifying consequences. One interview cites a children's home where the kids were forced to eat potato and vegetable peelings, which caused one little girl to vomit - she was then made to eat her own vomit to illustrate the need to 'waste not, want not'!! I've read things in this book that I wouldn't have chosen to read - things that made me upset and angry, and I was astounded at the cruelty meted out in institutions where these children should have been treated with a degree of kindness, and given the chance of a better life. This is an important piece of social history that documents what really happened in those years between the First World War and the Sixties, and there were some really heartbreaking cases, but there was some light relief along the way, with positive outcomes for some of the more fortunate ones. A really difficult, but important read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jenn Morgans

    Devastatingly upsetting in a lot of places, but important social history that still really isn't talked about. Devastatingly upsetting in a lot of places, but important social history that still really isn't talked about.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Breann

    I thought the book was really fascinating and presented a lot of historical information/stats about the social, cultural and political ramifications of illegitimacy, of which I was previously ill-informed. The personal stories were quite moving and I would have liked the author to delve into many of them in more detail. Overall, I think it is well worth the read. The only reason I gave it 3 stars (instead of 4) is that there seemed to be some redundant re-phrasing/filler between the stories that I thought the book was really fascinating and presented a lot of historical information/stats about the social, cultural and political ramifications of illegitimacy, of which I was previously ill-informed. The personal stories were quite moving and I would have liked the author to delve into many of them in more detail. Overall, I think it is well worth the read. The only reason I gave it 3 stars (instead of 4) is that there seemed to be some redundant re-phrasing/filler between the stories that could get a bit boring after a while. I know the author probably wanted to ensure that the reader fully understood the seriousness, distress, shame, etc. felt by these women, children, organizations and/or British society in general, but doing so was unnecessary past the first chapter or two. The stories and research were able to speak for themselves.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Liz Goodacre

    A fascinating social history tracing the effect of the stigma of 'illegitimacy 'over the decades, using legal and social frameworks and most importantly, individuals' own stories and testimony. A deeply moving and important book. A fascinating social history tracing the effect of the stigma of 'illegitimacy 'over the decades, using legal and social frameworks and most importantly, individuals' own stories and testimony. A deeply moving and important book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sasha

    Beautifully told social history full of tragic detail

  6. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Sharp

    An interesting and informative read. Alot of information to take in and it really does make you think how different attitudes were in the 1900's. An interesting and informative read. Alot of information to take in and it really does make you think how different attitudes were in the 1900's.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Katy Boyce

    An informative and well researched look into the world of illegitimate children and their families. I took this book on holiday with me and finished it within a week - I really couldn't put it down. It was such a fascinating insight into a topic which I really knew nothing about. I can't wait to see my Grandma soon to ask her about the subject! An informative and well researched look into the world of illegitimate children and their families. I took this book on holiday with me and finished it within a week - I really couldn't put it down. It was such a fascinating insight into a topic which I really knew nothing about. I can't wait to see my Grandma soon to ask her about the subject!

  8. 5 out of 5

    MDFP

    A difficult read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Dalzell

    fascinating look at Britain's view of children born out of wedlock and the effect it had on all parties involved. fascinating look at Britain's view of children born out of wedlock and the effect it had on all parties involved.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Susie

    I really enjoyed this book, my great grandfather was born out of wedlock & I wanted to learn more about the social history. This was everything I needed and more.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Fiona Connelly

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nicola

  13. 5 out of 5

    Alice

  14. 5 out of 5

    Richard Carr

  15. 4 out of 5

    Denyse Taylor

  16. 4 out of 5

    Les Johnson

  17. 5 out of 5

    Reta Sloan

  18. 4 out of 5

    Helen

  19. 5 out of 5

    laura

  20. 4 out of 5

    sue bryer

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sofia Stenroos

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mo Hunter

  23. 4 out of 5

    vix

  24. 4 out of 5

    Steve

  25. 5 out of 5

    Annabel Criddle

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mel Jaybee

  27. 4 out of 5

    Anthea Walsh

  28. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte Gregory

  29. 5 out of 5

    Anna

  30. 5 out of 5

    Clare Harvey

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