Baby Farms

Baby farms designate both private homes that accepted informally boarded out infants for a fee—a practice that proliferated in many industrialized cities around 1900—and the criminal practice of murdering infants for profit. Typically, children in the care of baby farmers, criminal or not, were born out of wedlock, and their unmarried mothers faced the dual dilemma of earning a living while simultaneously finding childcare for their infants and escaping the shame of illegitimacy. The baby farmers themselves were usually poor working-class foster mothers or midwives running private laying-in establishments where unmarried mothers could deliver in secrecy. Ultimately, baby farms raise many issues including concerns about the stigmatization associated with illegitimacy, high mortality rates among illegitimate infants, lack of childcare facilities, and women’s work. These are ...

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