The Experience of Unmarried Mothers in Barrow and the Furness Area 1960-1996

Muir, Frances (2011) The Experience of Unmarried Mothers in Barrow and the Furness Area 1960-1996. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This dissertation investigates the experience of unmarried mothers in Barrow and the Furness area between the years 1960 and 1996.
Barrows distinct geographical location, isolated at the edge of the Furness peninsula, has a strong working class culture that acts as a good test-tube.
Unmarried mothers are often viewed in a negative way by many in society, and judged as being scroungers, or, as immoral women who get pregnant through choice; just to claim welfare benefits. However, we have little knowledge of the actual experience of these women. Therefore this research has been based on oral interviews and the evidence collected from seven women, all of whom were born and raised in Barrow and Ulverston; and who became unmarried mothers between the periods studied. Birth announcements from local newspapers and several private letters are also used to support their oral evidence.
This dissertation will demonstrate the changes and continuities experienced by these women, and the limitations imposed on them by society. It also highlights the strategies these women employed not only to raise their child alone, but also to gain a measure of independence. The importance of actually talking with women who have experience of bringing up a child alone is also highlighted. Although a larger sample of candidates may have allowed for a more accurate study, it is possible to compare the testimony of one woman with that of another.
This dissertation challenges the argument that unmarried mothers are scroungers, who see getting pregnant as a way of gaining a council house and benefits, but shows there is still stigma associated with having children outside of marriage. It also highlights the pattern of abandonment by men, and demonstrates that even in the 1990s, sexual permissiveness was deemed acceptable for men, but not for women.
This research adds to the body of knowledge on the topic by helping to present a broader historical understanding of unmarried mothers.

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