Infanticide Increasing

Infanticide was seen as a major problem in Victorian London, and there were numerous reports in the press of mothers killing their young children.

On Saturday the 29th of March 1879, The Manchester Evening News published the following article about the problem:-


The crime of infanticide is largely on the increase, and the cruel trade of baby-farming flourishes with undiminished vigour.

Worse than all, medical men are to be found who lend themselves to purposes of the basest kind, and vice continues to find expression in the most loathsome forms of wrong.

Not a day passes without some case of infanticide being brought to light, and notwithstanding the operation of a fairly beneficent law, for which the country has largely to thank Mr. Charley, poor children, for the most part the offspring of shame, are done to death by unscrupulous mothers, or with their connivance and consent.


The Foundling Hospital is altogether inadequate to meet the requirements of a vast city like London, although the institution which good and brave old Captain Coram founded has done excellent service in the cause of humanity.

In other large towns no provision worth mentioning is made for the preservation of infants whose presence in the world is a source of trouble or dishonour to those who bore them.


The subject is beginning to excite more than wonted attention, and magistrates, coroners, police authorities, as well as the general public, are greatly exercised upon the point.

From John o’ Groat’s to the Land’s End the question is under discussion, how best of all to put a stop to infanticide.


It is not easy to suggest a remedy.

Ratepayers would object to constitute workhouses receiving homes of abandoned children, and a national institution founded on a basis analogous to that which exists in France would not be tolerated here, on the ground that it might tend to foster vice.

As a rule, it has been found that the mothers who destroy or desert their infants, are domestic servants, anxious to preserve themselves from reproach, and unable to retain a situation and their children at the same time.

It does not occasion them very much pain to render up their offspring to baby-farmers, and as the wages paid them are not high, the mothers usually fail to fulfil their obligations, and the infants are therefore either cast back upon them or are left out the cold to die.


Recently in one day three cases of infanticide came before one coroner, and in each instance a verdict of wilful murder against some persons unknown was returned.

Throughout the kingdom the crime is increasing, and that, too, not only in proportion to the increase of population, but in excess of it.

This is certainly a very serious state of things, and may justly excite deep regret.


It is computed that there are fully a million more adult women in this country than men, and this circumstance may to some extent account for the deplorable condition of affairs to which universal attention is now being directed.

It is in vain that the police hunt out and prosecute baby-farmers, the laws of demand and supply are in full operation.

The wretches who under pretence of taking care of them starve infants to death are a common want, and as a matter of course may found with but little trouble.


Other sinister things are going on in our midst which a modern “Devil on Two Sticks” might reveal if only he would take the roofs off some of the houses in large towns.

Human life in the bud is held all too cheap by the vicious and depraved, and the deluded victims of false promises, who have swerved but little from the path of virtue, under almost irresistible temptation, are dragged into lower depths by the hireling murderesses of young children.


The social ulcer is manifesting itself like a plague-spot in the land, and the eyes of philanthropists and statesmen must not be closed to the fact.

Every day matters are getting worse.

It is not a pleasant theme to discuss, and cannot be dilated upon.

Nevertheless, the evil exists to such an extent that means for its suppression must be devised, alike in the interest of morals and physical humanity.