Child Illegitimacy

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“Historians agree that between 1750 and 1850, the illegitimacy rate rose across Europe” (pg.2). Around the same time of the industrial revolution, child illegitimacy begins to rise to much larger heights than ever before. Child illegitimacy is the birth of a child from parents who have not married. This poses the question of did the industrial revolution lead to a sexual revolution? If the industrial revolution was really the cause of such a never before seen problem, then what changed in the women and men of agriculture from the transition into everyday working industrial men and women. Due to lifestyles in the home and at work from industrialization, an increase in illegitimate child births was an apparent result of such changes. One change would be that women began working to make money for the family rather than declare personal freedom. As these women worked far away from home, sometimes they found themselves in situations where they longed for company and/or economical support from a husband or partner. Edward Shorter believes that the increase in illegitimacy is a product of women finding employment away from home and using that chance to declare liberty and freedom. In reality, what Shorter argues is not the case because while the women found themselves distanced from their home, they still did not have much room for freedom and had actual more loyal and honest feelings to their families. Louise A. Tilly, Joan W. Scott, and Miriam Cohen made other conclusions that the industrial revolution actually does not account for the increased premarital child birth, but just like Edward, that is not the case either. With the industrial revolution, we start to see continuous occurrences of women leaving the home to go work and support the family. “Their work represented a continuation of practices customary in the family economy” (pg.14). In preindustrial times children and women found themselves working outside of the home as well to support the families. Job opportunities like such did increase for the women of families, therefore, giving women more chances to leave the house and make some money. While illegitimate child birth was also a problem of preindustrial society, it is a little convenient how such child bearing situations increase with the sudden lifestyle change happening at the same time. It is a little too convenient to be a coincidence at the point where there are multiple reports all over the European continent of increases in illegitimate child birth. The new work life is a direct change in which accredits mostly for the rest of the changes that brought an increase of unmarried child birth. This work where women left the enclosure of the family also allowed women to come in more contact with multiple types of men instead of the typical agricultural or crafting man. In a society where women worked alongside men of all different types, sexual contact with men didn’t guarantee marriage as much as it used to. Evidence is found within the searches for a husband or partner to help in tough economic times that women partook in. While women were trying to make a living for their family, there was also a pressure to find a husband or partner in these times. “…But they do little real work and let themselves be supported by boyfriends; they become pregnant and then are abandoned,” as stated by the chief of police in Munich (pg.17). This statement made by the chief of the police is a perfect example of the situation women looking for money and a husband were in. Women made less per hour, per week, and per month than men so they needed a man to depend on. The women could have depended on their families to support them but that would be counterproductive; the whole reason they were so far away from home was to make money and support their families. This leads women to try and build relationships with men around them for a sense of economic and social stability. With a husband comes a new economical family that can be secured...
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