chapter  11
21 Pages

Family union and the discharge of infanticidal married mothers from Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, 1863–1895

WithAlison Pedley

The murder of a child was, and is, an act that disunited families and challenged the strongest of marriages. If the child was killed by its mother, then she not only transgressed the law but also had behaved in contradiction to Victorian ideals of motherhood; insanity provided an explanation for an inexplicable act. The infanticidal mothers under discussion in this chapter had been found insane by law and sent to Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. The chapter explores the impact that the crime and the women’s incarceration had on families. Drawing on a range of sources including papers and correspondence from the Broadmoor Archive, it demonstrates the importance of marital and family unity when discharge and release from the asylum were under consideration. Social respectability and the moral condition of the family to the discharge process were notable factors. If the circumstances of family and friends were regarded as favourable by the authorities, then an application for a mother’s release was often successful. The chapter concludes that the support and care of the husband and the extended family were significant factors in achieving positive discharges from Broadmoor.