Imagine that you live in the Victorian era...

You are female. You are single. You are pregnant. You are an adolescent. What do you do?

(1) ask for child support from the baby’s father
(2) sue the baby’s father for making you pregnant
(3) run away from home and deliver the baby at a poor workhouse
(4) tell the truth to your parents that you have been sleeping around or that you have been raped
(5) induce an abortion
(6) kill yourself
(7) other

Another possibility is to get married, if the baby’s father will do the right thing, or if you can find another man willing to marry you.

One of my great-grandmothers found herself in this situation at the age of 19, in Australia in the 1870s. She gave birth to the girl, who went on to become my grandmother, and she later married another man, who wasn’t the father. (We strongly suspect that the father [my great-grandfather] was Chinese, but we have no way of knowing his name, since he wasn’t on the birth certificate. My great-grandmother’s parents were English.) However, though it must have been difficult, there were other options available in the 19th century.

Yeah, marry the guy. Make his life hell on earth… Failing that, ask for child support. Failing that, okay, sue him and ruin both our reputations.

Move to the colonies, possibly with an older relative or two. It’s such a pity your dear husband succumed to fever on the trip over.

Wouldn’t the father have full rights over the baby? I’m not sure there is anything the mother could do unless she ran away or decided to off herself.

He’d have to claim the child first, and be recognised as the father in the days before paternity tests.

Yes. If unmarried Mary has sex with unmarried Albert, resulting in pregnancy, and Albert marries Mary before the baby is born, then it’s fine: Albert is legally the father.

But if Albert doesn’t do the right thing by Mary, but Bertrand steps in and makes an honest woman of Mary by marrying her (as I’m sure happened often enough), then legally Bertrand is the father, and the cad Albert has no rights over the baby whatsoever.

Well put, sir.

And there’s a long history of girl’s homes where the young ladies went to ‘visit relatives’ and came back unmarked by scandal or carrying infants.

What happened to those babies could ne anything from adoption, workhouse or death.

The only way I can imagine being pregnant as an adolescent, knowing myself as I do, is if I was raped. If I ended up pregnant, I would pursue an abortion. If unable to obtain one, it would be suicide-ho.

I’m pretty sure the two most likely scenarios in those days would be to be shipped off on a “retreat” for oh I don’t know about 9 months and then give the baby to an orphanage or if you were really wealthy and not so evil but just send it to live with some distant cousin in Romania. If you were poor you probably gave birth in some back alley and either left the baby, dropped it at an orphanage, or tried your damnedest to make it.

I’m fairly certain that to sue the gentleman would be completely out of the question. It would bring further attention to an already embarrassing situation for the entire family. That era wanted to pretend that babies were made by a firm handshake so I’m sure they didn’t want to air this particular piece of dirty laundry.

It would depend on all sorts of things: how “I” got that way; who the father was; what my family would think; what kind of socioeconomic class I belonged to…

A very common outcome was for the grandparents to pretend the baby was theirs.

Another, I don’t know how common, was to be in denial until the infant was born. Then, due to lack of help and ignorance the child was often born dead and the body then abandoned or buried somewhere. In some cases there was deliberate infanticide.

In the Victorian era, rape might not be so cut and dried. Girls were often kept in the dark on sex, making them easy targets for unsurpulous preditors if they were not properly chaperoned. I suspect poor girls were much better educated as a survival technique, but even then, London was full of girls whose chooses were sell yourselves or starve.

My parents (assuming I had the same ones I have now) would find someone for me to marry – either the father, if he was available and willing, or some other willing young man.

My parents are very liberal, and my mother is a strong abortion rights supporter. But in that era, I would have wanted to marry, and they would have been totally supportive. My relationship with my parents is not perfect, but at least I know that then or now, I could and would tell them if I were pregnant.

Either 3 or 4, most likely, depending on how close my relationship was with my parents. Possibly 5, if I had access to a midwife offering “still and lost” services.

Marry him, or go away and have the baby and give it up.

The alternative would be to move far away and set myself up as a “young widow”. Or become a prostitute.

In those days, life was harsh for women and women really had nothing better to do then raise children. I don’t like the idea of marriage, but a women can only survive then, if a man were to take care of her. So of course I’d want him to marry me. However, if he would have none of that, I’d get an abortion.

knowing me I wouldn’t have gotten pregnant. If me and a man were madly in love and he were the one for me, I would have risked having sex. Otherwise, I would have been abstinent. [thinking of the person I am in the mindset of women in those times.]

Besides, weren’t marrying and having children young the norm?