Desperate act or wilful choice?
Infanticide and unwanted children
in Precarious childhood in post-independence Ireland
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Transcripts and newspaper accounts of infanticide cases suggest that the sexually ignorant, innocent and demure woman does not necessarily reflect the experiences and motivations of ordinary Irish women. The involvement of family members in individual cases of infanticide offers insight into the role families and communities played in defining and regulating the moral and sexual behavior of their members. While all of the women presented likely experienced some degree of fear, shame or desperation in killing their newborn children, it becomes clear that newborn children were easily expendable in their efforts to protect their own and their families' reputations. The evidence in infanticide cases begs a re-evaluation of constructions of sexuality, maternity, family life and childhood that were disseminated through moralist literature and have been accepted almost uncritically by feminist and social historians.

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