Macquarie University
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“Under my own care”: motherhood and poverty in New South Wales and Gloucestershire 1820–1834

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posted on 2022-03-29, 02:52 authored by Caitlin Isobel Adams
Since the 1960s, scholars have passionately debated whether mothers from the middle ages to the nineteenth century loved their children. Yet historians have only superficially examined the emotional relationships between women and their offspring. Building on this debate, this thesis aims to contribute to our understanding of motherhood and poverty in three ways. First, it probes the complexities of poor mothers’ emotional interactions with their children. Second, it examines some of the different ways that women expressed their moral and financial connections with their offspring. Finally, it brings a new lens to the study of motherhood and poverty by comparing mother-child relationships in Gloucestershire and New South Wales. Taking letters that mothers wrote to the parish in Gloucestershire, and petitions to admit children to, and withdraw children from, the Sydney Orphan Schools, this thesis compares how women’s relationships with their children are revealed in these different contexts between 1820 and 1834. It argues that poor mothers expressed or described instances of care for children in order to claim authority over them. In doing so, this research advances the work of historians who have revealed the agency of the poor, by suggesting that in this process, poor mothers also claimed authority.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Chapter One. Authority -- Chapter Two. Support -- Chapter Three. Emotion -- Conclusion -- Bibliography.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 98-121

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations

Department, Centre or School

Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Tanya Evans


Copyright Caitlin Isobel Adams 2018. Copyright disclaimer:




Great Britain


1 online resource (vii, 121 pages)

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