By Clare Hanson (auth.)
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Additional info for A Cultural History of Pregnancy: Pregnancy, Medicine and Culture, 1750–2000
In the embedded narrative, we learn of the young Laura's falling in love with the freethinker Glenmorris and marrying him against her parents' will. After the marriage, they live happily on his rundown estate in Scotland. However, when Laura is pregnant, Glenmorris is attacked and captured and is so seriously injured that Laura believes he is dead. Her husband's only surviving relation, the aptly named Lady Kilbrodie, realising that Glenmorris's estate will pass to her son if Glenmorris's child does not survive, takes Laura to live with her with the sole aim of ensuring the death of the child.
This was particularly true of those who worked in domestic service and who would be sacked as soon as their condition became known, particularly if the father were the master of the house. Mary Wollstonecraft's Maria explores such a situation through the character of the servant Jemima, born into abject poverty and effectively raped by her master when she is sixteen years old. Her emotions when she discovers she is pregnant are complex: she feels 'a mixed sensation of despair and tenderness', knowing that a child labelled a bastard must be 'an object of the greatest compassion' (p.
After a brief return to consciousness, Adeline relapses into a fainting fit, and the day after the encounter on the terrace gives birth to a dead child. To an extent, this episode could have stepped straight out of a textbook of obstetrics as a warning of the dangers posed by unregulated emotion. It also seems to reflect dominant ideology in that Adeline's suffering is presented as the direct result of her sin. Had she not lived with Glenmurray outside marriage, her perception of danger and hence the death of the child would simply not have occurred.