Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Women's History Month 2018: Mother's Pensions

Clark County, Idaho Mothers Pension booik via FamilySearch

How to deal with the poor and those left poor due to the absence of a father in the home has been a question raised throughout history. The support of a child with an unknown or yet to be named father was addressed in my previous post on bastardy bonds. Today, I want to look at one other remedy that we see in the early 20th century, Mother's Pensions.

According to Linda Gordon in her book, Pitied But Not Entitled. Single Mothers and the History of Welfare 1890-1935 (1994), the "problem" of single mothers has been an issue the public has been concerned with for over a century. While today we have welfare programs, after 1910 (1910-1920) most states passed mothers' aid programs which were also referred to as "mothers' pensions" and "widows' pensions" {28}. The women who this affected were single mothers, due to such events as a man's desertion, death or a divorce.

What does this mean for family historians? Records. First, you may want to check out the Mothers' Pensions Project website where you can find an historical map and some information by state (though not complete). Next, go to FamilySearch and conduct a Keyword search in the Catalog for Mothers Pension (please note that in the Catalog they are also listed as Mother's Pensions). States represented in the FamilySearch collection include Idaho, Illinois, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington. Court records found at a court or at a county archive may also hold these records.

Clark County, Idaho Mothers Pension via FamilySearch

These records contain information about the woman, her children, her husband or the father of the children, and possibly property owned.


Encyclopedia of Chicago - Mothers' Pensions
The Legal Genealogist - The mothers' pension laws

image citation: "Idaho, Clark County Records, 1884-1998," images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:2:77TC-DKSM?cc=1920125&wc=M6P8-M68%3A213071601%2C213277601 : 20 May 2014), Probate records > Mothers Pension, vol. 1, 1918-1932 > image 60 of 77; Clark County Clerk's Office, Dubois.

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