By a C.H. Social investigator
The unmarried mother, or motherto-be, is no longer expected to disappear; she is, in fact, given every encouragement to live, and to take her place in the world again both for her own sake and for the sake of her child.
The status of an unmarried mother as a mother has now been fully recognised. doubt if many parents would now turn an offending daughter out. Indeed, I have investigated approximately some 700 such cases a year for the past seventeen years. and can recall very few instances of parents acting in this fashion. The reverse has, in fact, more often proved the rule, with every endeavour made to hide the girl's shame, and get her into some place where she might have her child in peace, away from and out of the public eye.
In the one or two cases in which girls have run away from home for fear of such action, subsequent inquiries have revealed that this was the last thing the parents would have done, and invariably they have taken the girls back home with every care and solicitude. In one case, I recall, it was the girl's own father who gave a blood transfusion, in vain alas! to save his daughter dying in childbirth.
KILL THE LIBEL ON THE CLERGY
It is as well to kill a libel on the Irish clergy which has been allowed to go unchallenged far too long.
" Oh, if the priest knew he would denounce me from the altar," is the statement frequently made by Irish girls in trouble.
Actual experience, however, has revealed that except in only one case over seventeen years priests in Ireland go out of their way to preserve the secret when they learn of the fall of one of their flock. Some on being informed have at once posted off a cheque from themselves to cover any urgent need the girl might have in a strange country. All this, however, welcome as it may sound, does not help very far towards the general solution of the problem. Naturally, a girl's first inclination when she finds herself in trouble is to get away from all who know her. To meet the need thus created there arc Catholic, Church of England, Wesleyan and other homes for unmarried mothers where they may go for periods before and after confinement.
HUMANITY OF PARENTS
This. of course, is only part of the problem which, great as it may appear before, is infinitely greater after confinement, for there is then a child to consider, and this is where the humanity of most parents
breaks down. While they are invariably prepared to do everything humanly possible for their daughter, the inevitable tendency is to regard the child as something that can be dumped upon whomsoever will take it, and that at the earliest moment— days if possible. weeks at the latest.
The stain concern is to separate the woman from her child, and this often in face of the young mother's desire to retain her infant, at least for the period she may remain in the home. I have, in fact, known people whose chief anxiety was that their daughter might get fond of the child and refuse to part with it.
We have, it seems, still something to learn in the way of humane treatment. Having got so far with the mother, let us attend to the rights of the child, who, far too frequently. is the one to be sacrificed.
MODERN RESCUE WORK
This is where modern social welfare work comes in. An unmarried mother who desires to keep her child, but is unable to maintain it will obtain help. Modern rescue work centres round the value of a mother to her child, and to that end funds are provided for her.
She is not, of course, expected to take it and parade it round about the district where she is known. She is asked to recognise the child as hers, and her people are expected to realise that the infant has in some measure a claim upon them, for it is now generally recognised that such a child has as much right to consideration as any other child born into this world.
The point I would stress here is that no unmarried mother need endure the tortures of mind, .or the physical horrors meted out by our forbears. Whether she is Catholic, Protestant, or Wesleyan, or, indeed, no matter what her belief she will find aid. shelter, and comfort in her condition For the Archdiocese of Westminster there is a Secretary appointed who controls certain homes to which Catholic girls may go during their difficult days. Finally, no Church, or organisation in these islands makes greater, or more thorough provision for children of all classes than the Catholic Church which is, to-day, in one home or another in Britain maintaining wholly, or partly between 15,000 to 20,000 Catholic children whose mothers or whose people are unable to do so.