Louise Waterman Wise, “Mothers in Name,” 1920

Source:  Viola W. Bernard Papers, Archives and Special Collections, Augustus C. Long Library, Columbia University

Louise Waterman Wise with her two children, James and Justine

It is an easy thing in theory to insist that the place for the child of an unmarried mother is with the mother, and it goes without saying that every opportunity should be offered her to keep her child. A mother’s pension should be given to every mother, though unmarried, who will keep her child. The stigma too long attached to the child of the unmarried mother should be removed. We understand perfectly the healing and purifying power of a child who dwells with an unmarried mother, if that mother be able and fit to care for it. And yet the facts and the circumstances are often against the continuance of such a union. Must we not think primarily of the future of the child? The child of an unmarried mother rarely has a chance. It is whipped from pillar to post and denied that place in life to which every human being is entitled whether its parents be married or not.

Contrast two pictures: the unwelcome, unloved child, born out of wedlock, the child that the mother leaves with us and cannot be induced to keep, the child that she leaves without a sigh; and then think of that child a year later, under the care of its adoptive parents, who love it as tenderly as man and woman are capable of loving a child. It is a very serious matter for the state and society to insist that a child shall remain with its natural mother merely because of its birth and that it shall be denied a thousand opportunities which adoption under the new order of life brings.


Source: Louise Waterman Wise, “Mothers in Name,” Survey 43 (March 20, 1920):780.

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