19 Jan 2022

Offaly History lecture on 'Seduction and the Support of Illegitimate Children'


The old county home, formerly the workhouse, in Tullamore, now demolished

OFFALY History is hosting a lecture entitled “Seduction and the Support of Illegitimate Children in Ireland 1800-1974.”

The lecture will be given by Maria Luddy and takes place on Monday next, December 6 at 7.30pm via zoom.

All welcome. Contact Offaly History at for the link

For most of the period between 1800 and 1974 illegitimacy was both a legal disability and social stigma. In this talk Professor Luddy wants to explore the law around the maintenance of illegitimate children and also to examine the tort of seduction as a means by which women fought for the financial support of their children. 

An important question for her is how did some mothers manage financially to keep their illegitimate children? Hundreds of seduction cases were brought before the Irish courts in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Essentially they offered a means by which women could secure some financial support from putative fathers for their children. 

In 1930 the government introduced an Affiliations Order Act which allowed unmarried mothers to seek financial support from putative fathers.  How well did that work?  We know the social stigma that applied to unmarried mothers, and we are now aware of those women forced to give up their children in the Mother and Baby Homes of the twentieth century.  But what of those mothers who were able to take their children home with them,  how did they manage to survive financially?  Were putative fathers ever brought to account for their children?  These are some of the issues that will be discussed in this talk.

Maria Luddy is Professor Emeritus of Modern Irish History at the University of Warwick in England.  She is a native of Clonmel, county Tipperary and began her teaching career as a primary school teacher in Ireland until she took up a lectureship in history at Warwick University in 1990.  She is the author, co-author and editor of fifteen books and has published numerous articles on Irish social and gender history. 

Among her publications are Women in Ireland 1800-1918: A Documentary History (Cork University Press, 1995), Prostitution and Irish Society 1800-1940 (Cambridge University Press, 2007), and most recently (with Mary O'Dowd) Marriage in Ireland, 1660-1925 (Cambridge University Press, 2020). She is currently researching how illegitimate children were supported financially in Ireland from 1800 to the 1970s. She is particularly interested in how 'ordinary' people lived their lives in Ireland in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Offaly History’s library holds copies of Professor Luddy’s many works.

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