Abstract

This article examines 125 court cases of infanticide and concealment of birth that were reported in a Jamaican newspaper between 1865 and 1938 and were mainly committed by lower-class women. Informed by recent medical, psychological and legal studies on child murder, it demonstrates that historians can gain a more complete understanding of child murder in the modern period if they pay attention not only to poverty and a stigma attached to illegitimacy but also to societal norms of mothering and psycho-social stress factors. And more particularly, it will show that in spite of attempts to bring them in line with the metropolitan ideal of a family of husband/breadwinner, wife/homemaker and legitimate children, most lower-class African Jamaicans continued to hold on to their own norms of family, sexuality and gender, which had been carried over from Africa and reinforced by plantation practices during slavery.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-1897
Print ISSN
0022-4529
Pages
pp. 355-387
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-23
Open Access
No
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