‘Base brat of reform’: the victimisation of mother and child
in Ballads and songs of Peterloo
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A quarter of all casualties at Peterloo were women, even though they comprised only 12% of those present. This apparent victimisation of women by the Manchester Yeomanry Cavalry resulted in the widespread use of the motif of mother and child across a range of poems, other print media and cultural artefacts produced in response to Peterloo, leading to an intensification of impact rather than a dilution through repetition. The introduction traces the involvement of female reformers, particularly in the North West and their representation in graphic satire. Even though this section comprises only eight poems, the trope of woman and child as victims is present in many of the other poems in this collection as well as newspaper articles, graphic satire and other artefacts, resulting in a powerful discourse due to the sense of collectivity engendered by its repeated use. The introduction provides examples of how the representations of Peterloo depicted women and children, illustrating that the poems should be read alongside the caricatures of George Cruikshank and images printed on handkerchiefs, illustrated here by the work of John Slack, and pottery in order to fully understand the power and resonance of this single trope.

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