In the aftermath of the First World War, more women than ever found themselves without a partner to help raise their children. Single parent families received little protection from government, and many faced a life of poverty. Responding to the need she saw around her, Lettice Fisher, a former social worker and economist, decided to act. She formed the National Council for the Unmarried Mother and her Child in February 1918.
The Council had two founding goals:
To reform the Bastardy Acts and Affiliation Orders Acts which discriminated against children born out of marriage, giving them fewer legal rights than those born to married parents and making it difficult for unmarried mothers to obtain maintenance for their children from the father.
To address the high death rates for children born outside marriage by providing accommodation for single mothers and their babies.
Understanding single parents and their individual needs and experiences was key to the Council’s strategy. In the 1920s, the Council set up a Case Committee to provide single parents with tailored advice and assistance. At the same time, the Council campaigned to provide single parents and their children with an alternative to the workhouse – at the time many were forced to turn to workhouses for somewhere to live due to lack of financial support or employment options.