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'Cases of Irish Unmarried Mothers in Britain', with Lorraine Grimes

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The final ISGRN seminar of 2020 takes an interesting look at untold stories of unmarried Irish mothers in Britain, 1926-1973.

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The Irish Sexualities and Genders Research Network invites you to the 5th seminar in its 2020-21 Online Seminar Series, ''I thought...well, it's an escape right?': Cases of Irish Unmarried Mothers in Britain, 1926-1973', with Lorraine Grimes.

This paper is based on a PhD thesis entitled 'Migration and Assistance: Irish unmarried mothers in Britain, 1926-1973' which was completed earlier this year. The thesis focused on Irish unmarried mothers in Britain, taking a comparative approach to the assistance and institutionalisation of unmarried mothers in Ireland and Britain in the twentieth century. This paper asks: what happened to the hundreds of Irish unmarried mothers who emigrated to Britain each year? Shame and stigma was heavily associated with unmarried motherhood in both Ireland and Britain and both counties were similar in their treatment of single women with children. This paper offers a snapshot into the research findings by focusing on three women's testimonies which were conducted as part of this research, as well as three cases of Irish unmarried mothers found within the archival records of various welfare organisations. By focusing on these six cases, this paper incorporates issues of adoption, repatriation and social class. It also offers us a unique insight into women's experiences in mother and baby homes in Britain utilising both oral history accounts and close scrutiny of Matron's handbooks. This paper questions the collective responsibility of single mothers and their children, what we can learn from the historiography as a society, and the on-going struggle for birth parents and adopted children reuniting.

Lorraine Grimes is a post-doctoral researcher at NUI Galway. Her research interests include institutionalisation, women's history, unmarried motherhood, adoption, social policy and social change.

The event will be taking place online on Zoom. All attendees must agree to the ISGRN's online event policy which can be found here. Details of the zoom meeting will be distributed to all who register in advance through Eventbrite. We look forward to welcoming you to our seminar.

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