Women, Infanticide and the Press, 1822-1922 : News Narratives in England and Australia book cover
1st Edition

Women, Infanticide and the Press, 1822-1922
News Narratives in England and Australia

ISBN 9781138251557
Published October 17, 2016 by Routledge
216 Pages

USD $62.95

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Book Description

In her study of anonymous infanticide news stories that appeared from 1822 to 1922 in the heart of the British Empire, in regional Leicester, and in the penal colony of Australia, Nicola Goc uses Critical Discourse Analysis to reveal both the broader patterns and the particular rhetorical strategies journalists used to report on young women who killed their babies. Her study takes Foucault’s perspective that the production of knowledge, of 'facts' and truth claims, and the exercise of power, are inextricably connected to discourse. Newspaper discourses provide a way to investigate the discursive practices that brought the nineteenth-century infanticidal woman - known as ’the Infanticide’ - into being. The actions of the infanticidal mother were understood as a fundamental threat to society, not only because they subverted the ideal of Victorian womanhood but also because a woman’s actions destroyed a man’s lineage. For these reasons, Goc demonstrates, infanticide narratives were politicised in the press and woven into interconnected narratives about the regulation of women, women's rights, the family, the law, welfare, and medicine that dominated nineteenth-century discourse. For example, the Times used individual stories of infanticide to argue against the Bastardy Clause in the Poor Law that denied unmarried women and their children relief. Infanticide narratives often adopted the conventions of the courtroom drama, with the young transgressive female positioned against a body of male authoritarian figures, a juxtaposition that reinforced male authority over women. Alive to the marked differences between various types of newspapers, Goc's study offers a rich and nuanced discussion of the Victorian press's fascination with infanticide. At the same time, infanticide news stories shaped how women who killed their babies were known and understood in ways that pathologised their actions. This, in turn, influenced medical, judicial, and welfare policies regar

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Part I Infanticide News in the London Times: 1822-1871: Personal tragedies, public narratives: 1822-1833; A press campaign and the 1834 new Poor Law; The 1860s maternal panic. Part II Infanticide News in the Regional Press: 1830-1922: Infanticide in the Van Dieman’s Land press; ’Bush madness’ in the Mercury; ’The Hinkley girl-mother’ and the Leicester Mercury; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

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Nicola Goc is a Senior Lecturer in the School of English, Journalism and European Languages at the University of Tasmania, Australia.


'... this is a meticulous book of the infanticidal actions of young women in England and Australia in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It demonstrates their desperation, their resistance, and in some cases their deaths against the social, political and legislative history of the day as reported by the press. This book will have particular appeal for crime news researchers, for those interested in the lives and stories of women, and for fans of Foucault.' Pacific Journalism Review ’Goc’s study provides many fascinating insights and her inclusion of case studies serves to illustrate the lives and experiences of the working-class women who became inserted into public, political and press discourse after killing their children.’ Crime, Media, Culture 'The real value of Goc's work is that she captures infanticide as an 'all-powerful' action - the decision that another being would live or die - carried out by predominantly marginalised and powerless people.' Australian Historical Studies 'Nicola Goc has made an important contribution to our knowledge of infanticide and its imbrication with patriarchal discourses, and to our understanding of the part played by the media in influencing attitudes and values and in creating meaning.' SHARP News 'The strength of this book is that it provides a legal, medical, patriarchal and historical context for this suffering that is detailed, thorough and couched in a clear and useful theoretical framework.' Journal of Australian Colonial History