Heroines of the ages
Although it is hard to find much to say about the women in this family tree sometimes, nevertheless they are the glue that holds the whole thing together. Each new branch begins with a woman, each family could not exist or survive without its mother. And it was tough. The rather idealistic painting I have chosen to represent the Motherhood ‘tree’ as it were (by Arianne Lequay), is an ironic choice in a way, because this is not at all what motherhood meant for most of the women in our stories.
For even for the wealthy, motherhood was not to be entered into lightly. It was a perilous undertaking that could often end in death - either that of the child, or yourself. Indeed I often think that those ladies who did not marry made the wisest choice - but then they are only the bit players in this family tree. By necessity, to be included you need to have had children. The spinsters may have been much put upon and had to work hard, but they were not threatened by an early death in quite the same way.
There were two undeniable facts about motherhood prior to birth control and modern medicine - you might die and your family would be large. Neither of these things lead to an easy life, no matter how rich you were. Motherhood was their life, in much the same way that the men’s working lives were. How did they do it?
So I am attempting to put together a few pages giving a very brief look at what it might have been like for different classes and different times. As in all these social history pages it is not a detailed research project, but I hope to find some interesting links to ‘real’ research along the way.
I recently received the following (somewhat corny) email - one of those emails that goes around the internet - it made me wonder whether the same sort of sentiments would have applied in times gone by - or is it the ultimate expression of a twenty first century attitude. It’s called Images of mother
4 years of age - My Mummy can do anything!
8 years of age - My Mum knows a lot! A whole lot!
12 years of age - My Mother doesn’t know everything!
14 years of age - My Mother? She wouldn’t have a clue.
16 years of age - Mum? She's so five minutes ago.
18 years of age - That old woman? She's way out of date!
25 years of age - Well, she might know a little bit about it!
35 years of age - Before we decide, let's get Mum's opinion.
45 years of age - Wonder what Mum would have thought about it?
65 years of age - Wish I could talk it over with Mum.