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Copyright (c) 2000 Canadian Journal of Family Law
Canadian Journal of Family Law

SYMPOSIUM: Stories of Family Life: Cohabitation, Marriage and Social Change


17 Can. J. Fam. L. 20


Carol Smart *


This paper begins with a story of family life which unfolded in England at the turn of the twentieth century.

A young woman, named Charlotte, who was born during the reign of Queen Victoria fell pregnant to a man who was unable/unwilling to marry her. She bore an illegitimate child around 1902, but this daughter was sent to live with distant relatives and so Charlotte was able to marry in 1904. She had 4 legitimate children before W.W.I broke out in 1914. After the War her husband decided to take the family to Australia to make a new start. He left with the eldest child, a son, in order to get started up. The plan was that Charlotte should follow. Charlotte had no such plans. Once he had left, she had no choice but to put her 3 daughters into a Children's Home and then went to London to earn a living working in service and elsewhere. As her daughters grew up they ran away from the Home and joined her in London.

The eldest became a dancer and managed to marry a much older, wealthy man who died soon after. She never had to work again and lived alone in comfort until she died in her 50s. The middle one was in thrall to her mother and became her companion and carer. She did have a long-standing affair with a married man who could not divorce. Then, when her mother died, she married at the age ...
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