orthent (orthent) wrote in little_details,
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orthent
little_details

Working single moms, circa 1900-1910

Can anyone help me with search terms or book/article recommendations for researching the options that would be open to a single working woman with a presumably illegitimate child in the U.S., circa 1900-1910? The woman in question would be a recent immigrant from Germany, who had probably worked as a domestic before her pregnancy.

(This is a nonfiction story, so I know what actually did happen--she stayed with her sister in Pittsburgh, PA for a while, then found a job as a housekeeper for a widower with several children. As far as I can tell, she was able to bring her infant daughter with her; less than a year after she came to work for him, her employer married her and adopted the child.)

What I'm wondering about: the obstacles a woman who wasn't so lucky would have had to face. Would she have been unwelcome in lodging houses? Would she ordinarily have had to put her child out to nurse in order to work? Would she have had difficulty finding a job--presumably, a maid who got pregnant would be dismissed without a reference? Anything else I've failed to think of?

I've checked Victorian Web, and I've done searches using "single motherhood, 19th century" and "illegitimate motherhood," but I'm coming up dry. If someone could recommend a good book or article or two, or even tell me where I'm going wrong in my selection of search terms, I'd be very grateful.
Tags: 1900-1909, usa: history (misc), usa: pennsylvania, ~childrearing, ~marriage
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