Between duty and desire : pre-nuptial pregnancy and unmarried motherhood in Anglican Cape Town during the first half of the twentieth century

Richardson, Laura Jane (2020-12)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2020.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Throughout the first half of the twentieth century couples were exhorted by both the church and secular authorities to delay sexual intercourse until after marriage, but popular attitudes towards premarital sexuality did not always reflect those of the authorities, nor were such attitudes necessarily a good index of popular behaviour. Marrying qualitative and quantitative techniques in a way that is sensitive to the limitations of both approaches, this thesis presents an interpretation of new evidence regarding prenuptial pregnancy and unmarried motherhood amongst a select group of South Africans living in Cape Town during this period. In so doing, it aims to shed light on the complex relationship between prescription and practice in the intimate lives of ordinary men and women. At the Cape, as in many other areas of the globe, the early to mid-twentieth century – an era often referred to as the ‘golden age’ of marriage and the family – saw a higher share of couples than ever before going to the trouble and expense of contracting marriages recognized by law. Nonetheless, the quantitative evidence presented in this study, compiled using individual-level birth and marriage records drawn from seven socio-economically diverse Anglican parishes in Cape Town, shows that, despite growing pressure towards marriage, out-of-wedlock pregnancies accounted for a substantial proportion of births, particularly within working class coloured communities. Although many out-of-wedlock pregnancies resulted in marriage, falling pregnant outside of wedlock was risky, especially for women from fragile family networks. Initially there was very little help available for women who, having fallen pregnant outside of wedlock, were unable to secure marriage, and while caring for unmarried mothers and their infants did slowly come to be regarded as necessary, if unpopular work, the social stigma attached to unmarried motherhood continued to influence the kinds of assistance they received. The qualitative evidence is used to examine some of the debates that emerged between female philanthropists, social workers, medical professionals and moral conservatives regarding the care of unmarried mothers, looking especially at notions of female deviancy and how these shifted to reflect different moral and political agendas. In addition, case records from two Anglican unmarried mothers’ hostels are used to contrast the ideas put forward in these debates with the actual courtship experiences of unmarried mothers in Cape Town. These records support the hypothesis that attitudes towards premarital sexuality tended to be more ambiguous and courtship experiences more diverse than has previously been supposed.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Tydens die eerste helfte van die twintigste eeu het die kerk en sekulêre owerhede ongehude paartjies aangeraai om hulself van voorhuwelikse seks te weerhou. Ongehude paartjies se populêre opvattings en seksuele gedrag wat voorhuwelikse seks aanbetref het egter nie noodwendig die denke van die owerhede weerspieël nie. Hierdie tesis bestudeer deur middel van beide kwantitatiewe en kwalitatiewe tegnieke nuwe inligting oor die buite-egtelike swanger en enkelouerskappe van ’n geselekteerde groep inwoners van Kaapstad. Sodoende beoog die tesis om, met beide kwantitatiewe en kwalitatiewe tegnieke se tekortkominge in ag genome, lig te werp op die ingewikkelde verband tussen die voorgeskrewe en werklike seksuele gedrag van gewone mans en vrouens. In die vroeë tot middel twintigste eeu het Kaapstad, soortgelyk aan ander wêreldstreke, ook ’n “goue era” van die huwelik- en gesinslewe beleef, aangesien ’n groter aantal paartjies as ooit tevore moeite gedoen en finansiële onkostes aangegaan het om wettiglik te trou. Persoonlike geboorte- en huweliksrekords wat uit sewe uiteenlopende sosio-ekonomiese Anglikaanse gemeentes in Kaapstad versamel is, dui egter aan dat selfs met die groeiende druk om in die huwelik te tree, voorhuwelikse-swangerskappe steeds ’n aansienlike deel van die geboortes, veral in bruin werkersklasgemeenskappe, gevorm het. Alhoewel buite-egtelike swangerskappe dikwels tot huwelike gelei het, was buite-egtelike geboortes riskant, veral vir vroue met kwesbare familienetwerke. Aanvanklik was daar min hulp aan swanger ongehude moeders verleen. Mettertyd is die noodsaaklikheid van die versorging van ongehude moeders en hul kinders teësinnig aanvaar, maar sosiale stigmas verbonde aan ongehude moeders het egter steeds die aard van die hulp wat hulle ontvang het, beinvloed. Deur middel van kwalitatiewe getuienis word die debatte tussen vroulike filantrope, maatskaplike werkers, medici en moreel konserwatiewes rakende die versorging van ongehude moeders, geëvalueer. Die tesis skenk spesifieke aandag aan vroulike afwykende gedrag en hoe dit oor tyd verander het om verskillende morele en politieke agendas te reflekteer. Daarbenewens word gevallestudies van ongehude moeders van twee Anglikaanse tehuise gebruik om die idees in die debatte te kontrasteer met die werklike ervarings van ongetroude vroue in Kaapstad tydens hofmakery. Hierdie rekords ondersteun die hipotese dat die opvattings rondom voorhuwelikse seks en die ervarings tydens hofmakery meer uiteenlopend en divers was as wat voorheen aanvaar is.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/109081
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