By J. Keating
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Additional resources for A Child for Keeps: The History of Adoption in England, 1918-45
The two societies she referred to were the National Children Adoption Association (NCAA) and the National Adoption Society (NAS). Other societies appeared during the 1920s but these were the first substantial ones whose sole purpose was adoption. The NCAA was particularly influential in publicising the idea of adoption, and successful at fundraising for its activities. 14 She was born in May 1862 into a professional family in Exeter; her father Thomas was then High Bailiff of the Exeter County Court and subsequently an official at the Board of Trade, and her brothers Sidney and Henry became respectively a solicitor and surgeon.
In 1920 there was a vast drop in the actual number of illegitimate births to 15,000. 88 Family support and the covering up of illegitimacy provided some protection for young unmarried mothers in poor but stable communities against being placed in a mental hospital under the Mental Deficiency Act of 1913. This legislation gave powers to local authorities to certify pregnant women who were homeless, destitute or deemed ‘immoral’ and detain them indefinitely. 90 The Mental Deficiency Act came about, as Matthew Thomson described, because of the increasing linkage between ‘immorality’ and ‘imbecility’: In the last quarter of the [nineteenth] century an increasing number of the women in rescue homes were reported as being feeble-minded.
Evidence given to the Hopkinson Committee in 1920 showed that by the beginning of the First World War a number of upper-middle-class ladies were already arranging adoptions informally. Miss R. S. M. Peto told how she had adopted seven children herself since 1908, and during the years after 1915 had arranged about twenty permanent adoptions for other families. She had confined herself to dealing with illegitimate ‘children of the better classes’ and all had gone to families of similar background.
A Child for Keeps: The History of Adoption in England, 1918-45 by J. Keating