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Unmarried Motherhood in Twentieth Century Scotland: History, Politics and Policy

Project Description

Project reference number: GSBS-2019-104

The conventional story about unmarried mothers has been one of shame. Mothers and their illegitimate children were neglected, abandoned by society and, for much of the twentieth century, also by their families. In Scotland, strong religious moral overtones pervaded both society and politics, helping to marginalize these mothers and their infants much longer than was the case in England. Yet excluding research into venereal disease, mother and baby homes (the Magdalenes and Church of Scotland) and Blaikie’s study of northeastern Scotland, Scottish unwed mothers’ experiences of pregnancy and early motherhood have been neglected. Building on these studies, and recent English research which challenged some stereotypes about unmarried mothers, this PhD will explore the experience of unwed pregnancies and early motherhood in Scotland. It will investigate the health and welfare services (state and voluntary) provided for unmarried mothers, how these worked with or against each other and how they treated women. The PhD will also examine the varied acceptability and exclusion of unmarried motherhood across different social and economic contexts in Scotland. Finally, the changing national context surrounding unmarried mothers and how this impacted upon their own and their infants’ health and welfare will be studied.
Not only do the findings from this study have the potential to challenge conventional perceptions of unwed mothers, they are also relevant to contemporary social policy: addressing the Scottish government’s priorities of improving maternal and neonatal care, reducing child poverty and enhancing adolescent health and well-being.

This project involves collaboration between researchers in the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare (CSHHH Glasgow) and the Scottish Poverty Information Research Unit (SPIRU).

Supervisor Research Profiles

Director of Studies: Dr Janet Greenlees
GCU Research Online URL:

2nd Supervisor: Prof Stephen Sinclair
GCU Research Online URL:

3rd Supervisor: Dr Ruth Lightbody
GCU Research Online URL:

How to apply

This project is available as a 3 years full-time PhD study programme with expected start date of 1 October 2019

To apply for this project, use the following link to access the online application form, as well as further information on how to apply:

Applicants shortlisted for the PhD project will be contacted for an interview within four weeks from the closing date.

Please send any other enquiries regarding your application to:

Funding Notes

Exceptional candidates will be put forward for the scholarship competition. The Scholarship packages available include fully funded studentships and fees only scholarships. The fully funded studentships are worth £19,300 per year for 3 years, subject to satisfactory progress. They cover payment of tuition fees at the UK/EU rate and an annual stipend of £14,800.

For further details on funding see View Website

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