In a recent and valuable history of British working women, Helen McCarthy suggests that the loneliness of mothers first entered the public domain in the early twentieth century. Forced to contend with a new bloc of voters, runs her argument, politicians identified what they saw as a dilemma of isolation. Perhaps policy could respond to the housewife’s needs. The public discussion was agnostic on several points, most tellingly on whether children could be companionable. Was a mother alone when she was with her children? Did they cause or alleviate her sequestration at home? What, exactly, needed solving? This paper takes the early twentieth-century discussion as prompt to a broader exploration of how we give a history to maternity, care and solitude. Focusing on the care relations of middle childhood, the paper brings into conversation usually divergent histories of solitude, labour and social reproduction.
All are welcome – this is a free event, but booking is required