underage sex in 1880's irish workhouses?

+6 votes
i am a little confused by my tree information i have gotten so far, you see my grt grt grandmother (elizabeth holmes) was an inmate of the workhouse for many years. she had 5 children all of which were born in the workhouse. but if my calculations are correct then she would have been around 15yrs old when she had her first child which im not sure is likely for a roman catholic child? also the father of the children is down as the master of the workhouse who would have been 38yrs old and who was also married to someone else. yet these two went on to have child after child together. i mean was it common place for the workhouse master to have relations with the inmates back then?? would there not have been consequencies to him having sex with an underage inmate at that time or did it go on a lot? is there a good source for irish workhouses? many thanks for any insight you can offer
WikiTree profile: Elizabeth Holmes
asked in The Tree House by Lia Holmes G2G Crew (350 points)
retagged by Keith Hathaway

It sounds like you have some good sources.  Can you add them to her profile?  Then we can take a look and confirm what you have.

Perhaps not a common occurrence but then perhaps not all that unusual. Look at Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings.
i will have to look up how to do that i'm really not sure of how this site works yet but i shall certainly try, i looked up all their birth certificates on groni and also found some articles on the website 'find my past'  which im subscribed to, im not sure if i can copy them?

was sally hemmings a willing participant though or was she doing what was expected of her because she felt she didnt have another choice? was it a love story shrouded in secrecy or one of slavery and sexual abuse do you think?
I think personal sensibilities were different then than now.  You can read articles that suggest either point of view or both.  Sally was his first wife's half-sister.  I think the relationship was different than current notions of love.  I think the same could be true of your story.  The Social Norms or the Social Paradigm or the Zeitgeist were different then and applying today's morals and values may not be the best way to look at the situation.

I think that is one of the fun things about doing genealogy and family history research, is trying to put yourself in the time and place of the individuals you are researching.  I think it helps to flesh out their stories.
There's a good site about the poor law and workhouses with pages for individual workhouses. (including those in Londonderry )

It's also got the rules from 1844 for Irish Workhouses

( rules about  ensuring good moral conduct of the inmates!)

www. worhouses.org.uk

 Have you found the children's baptisms? It would  be interesting to see how they were recorded.
yes of course you are right, thank-you michael
thank-you very much helen i shall take a look at that now. i have the birth certificates for the children and the workhouse master is recorded as the father on them.

2 Answers

+6 votes
Best answer
Dear Lia

This child was not underage. She would be under current laws but not as they stood back then. The age of heterosexual consent for England was set in 1275 at twelve years for girls. This became the law in Wales when Henry VIII's Wales Acts took effect. Theoretically at this stage there was no minimum age for males in heterosexual activity.

Parliament took until 1875 to raise the age of consent for girls to 13 and the age of consent for all heterosexual activity was raised to 16 in 1885. Homosexual sex and buggery remained an offence; indeed until 1861 buggery was a capital crime.

These dates would not hold true for Scotland which was a separate kingdom until 1707 and retained a separate legal jurisdiction even after that date. Ireland was a separate jurisdiction until 1801, but then most laws pertaining to England and Wales also pertained to Ireland.
answered by John Orchard G2G6 Mach 2 (20.7k points)
selected by Keith Hathaway

Nice work John, thanks.

Buggery eh? Had to look that one up.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buggery

I can't imagine a better answer John.  Thank you for fielding this question so well.  Have a super day.
wow i honestly did not know that thankyou very much for that information, i guess that kind of puts things in a different perspective. thanks again
and an indepth explanation regarding buggery also :-) you guys give very thorough answers if nothing else lol, thankyou
+1 vote
It's probably how she survived.   They were hell holes.

"Workhouse. It’s a word that conjures up horror in Irish stories, a place of no escape, of utter destitution. The Irish are a proud people and the thought that your ancestors, your people, had been forced to accept the deprivation and tyranny of the workhouse was too much. During Ireland’s War of Independence, squads of rebels would burst into the old workhouse buildings to torch the records, so that any evidence of their families past shame were destroyed. Long after they were closed down the memory of the workhouse lingered on as a bogeyman to keep the kids quiet. They were grim places, there’s no doubt about that."

answered by Patricia Hawkins G2G6 Mach 1 (19.8k points)

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