Saturday, June 27, 2015

Baby Farming in England – Described in 1923

The following article discusses the case of Daisy Ellen Chivers and the serial killer sisters, Amelia Sach and Annie Walters (1902). The case involving “James and Wallis, man and woman” has not yet been identified.


FULL TEXT: The tragic fate of the unwanted child has grown to be a serious social problem in England, especially during and since the war. How many hundreds of these hapless infants who come into the world unsought, and when they, do arrive are uncared for and ill-treated until death ends their sufferings, no statistics will ever reveal. It is chiefly from mothers in the upper and middle class circles of society that they spring, but they are transplanted almost immediately into most vicious baby farming rings, bartered for a few pounds, and destined not to live long enough to cause a loss to those who adopt them.


Organisations for their welfare multiply, but still the toll of infant life continues under most nefarious conditions. Very few cases of deliberate murder have been legally established in the last quarter of a century, but there are thousands of others in which the professional baby farmer has accomplished her cruel designs without bringing herself within the meshes of the law. The details of heartless cruelties developed at recent trials of professional ‘baby farmers’ have stirred all England. Take the case of a woman in the west of England, kindly, benevolent soul to all outward appearance, living in a respectable suburb, who answered advertisements by the score for someone to give motherly care to children [the reference id to Daisy Chivers]. She conceived a refined idea of murder. Before the first pound of the £20 or £40 received had been expended the child’s doom was settled.


She was careful to give the victims entrusted to her charge plenty of food, to keep the surroundings of the home cleanly, and apparently to be stow upon the mites an affection which disarmed suspicion. But her hand guided them to their little graves certainly and surely. On a bleak day when a keen east wind was chilling the warmest clad folk to the marrow, she was wont to take the children by turns into the garden to give them an airing. Her visits were prolonged by protracted chats with neighbors over the wall and soon underneath the solitary wrap covering the baby in her arms there was a potential victim to bronchitis and pneumonia.Three such deaths occurred within a few weeks, all due to natural causes, as the doctor who was called in at the last minute was bound to certify. It was a much less dangerous way of sacrificing life than stinting the infants in food or leaving them unattended, but it was none the less effectual as the means to the end which was undoubtedly in the mind of the unscrupulous foster-mother. It was, of course, deliberate murder in each case, but there was no means of proving if. Cases like this and many involving fiendish cruelty have recently been engaging the attention of the police and officials of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. The cases are many and varied in their wickedness.


There was an instance a few years ago where the proprietor of a children’s home was summoned to court for neglecting one of the inmates. It transpired in the evidence that there was a child in the home for whom, a sum of over five hundred pounds had been deposited. This was one of the unwanted children from the upper classes, the father being a member of a titled family. The manager of the home greedily took the money, promised every care to the infant — and left it in filth and neglect like a deserted animal. Some of the most serious cases have been those affecting children who were adopted. Sach and Walters were women who adopted children and made away with them. The women received various sums of money. They were convicted and sentenced to death. James and Wallis, man and woman, were both both similarly caught and convicted of seeking babies for adoption and murdering them. They were sentenced to death. These people were in the habit of adopting children. The Wallis woman smothered one child in a railway carriage shortly after receiving it, so much in a hurry was she to get rid of the little one.


There have been many other serious cases, in all of which it has been proved that there are numbers of people anxious to get rid of children and willing to pay considerable sums of money to accomplish their pur pose. Knowing this, callous and mercenary people have made a business of adoptions, with no desire or intention to care for the children who  pass into their hands. As the result of experience, there is a movement to enact a law that all adoptions should be registered, and that all children adopted should be subject to regular and systematic visitation. Various motives have been found to prompt people who offer to adopt children. There are those who, obviously, have no other desire than that of providing a good home and caring for any child who may be en trusted to them. These are generally people, without families, or who have lost a child. Others think of adopting a child much as they would of taking a canary, or buying a dog. It is a passing mood, and they tire as quickly of one as of the other. A case that illustrates the ease with which children can be disposed of and, incidentally, the perils lurking behind an advertisement, is that of a girl who was in a home in London, and who, as the result of an advertisement in a religious paper offering ‘a good Christian home,’ was adopted by a woman of independent means living in or near Worcester. For a time the child was treated properly. Afterward she was made to do most of the work in a twelve roomed house, rising between five and six in the morning, and never going to bed until midnight. She was found with thirty-four scars on her body, many of a terrible nature; she still bears some of the marks.


In 1911 the woman who adopted the girl and a man who horsewhipped her were sent to prison for two years with hard labor, the maximum punishment under the Children Act. The case created an enormous sensation. The custody of the girl was given to the children’s society; she is now a young woman doing well, but suffering in health from the treatment she received nine years ago. Advertisements in newspapers are very useful to people who have no desire beyond that of evading their responsibilities in respect to their children. Two people, the man fifty years of age (married), the woman thirty-two (single), were living together. In September this year a child was born to them. The man advertised in a London morning paper asking someone to adopt the baby ‘for love.’ There was a reply from people who wanted a boy to be brought up with their little girl. The child has a good home, and will no doubt be well looked after, but neither the father nor the mother is contributing to its maintenance. It is known that two other children have been disposed of by this same couple in the same way, no inquiries having been made by them as to the suitability of either home.


This haphazard method of disposing of children is common. Some years ago most of the reputable newspapers discontinued advertisements. This rule has been relaxed since the war, but lately, on bringing facts to the notice of the the proprietors of some papers, such advertisements are again excluded. It would be one of the further advantages resulting from the legalising of adoption, and setting up an authority for the purpose, if the practice of advertising could be abolished. Children are frequently disposed of in most casual ways. About the month of November, 1918, a woman calling at the registry office on other business found there the names of people willing to adopt a child. Without, apparently, making any attempt to satisfy herself that her illegitimate boy would be well treated she placed it with a man and woman who consented to take the child without pay ment. In less than a month the boy, only four years old, was found to be a mass of bruises, after being, so the inspector discovered, frightfully beaten with a belt. The doctor who gave evidence in the court said that never in the course of his twenty-five years’ practice had he seen such a case of brutal ill-treatment. Peculiar ideas are held as to agreements by many people who make them. They appear to think that by signing a paper they have performed a legal and binding act. A lazy and neglectful father disposed of his boy and his wife at the same time. The document in this case was:


“I. A. B., do hereby state that I leave my household goods to my wife C. D. Also that I have received £1 off E. F. so that he shall take to my wife and keep them.


There are many cases in which children who are adopted without money payments are exposed to grave moral danger. A woman was sent to prison for a month for aiding and  abetting the keeping of a disreputable resort. She was also prosecuted, under the Children Act, in respect of her adopted daughter, who was exposed to the risk of being ruined. A girl aged ten years who was adopted by distant relatives was made to. sleep with a lodger aged 60, a man addicted to drink. She was ill-treated and beaten until the society intervened, when the girl was removed to the home of the parents. A man, lazy and uninclined to work, and whose wife was of idle habits, lived in a scantily furnished and filthy home. They advertised, and adopted a healthy illegitimate baby a fortnight old. They were promised £20 with the child, but received only £5. On receiving a complaint a police inspector made a visit, and found the child, then nineteen months old, very thin, dirty, and in great pain through a large swelling in the groin. The child was removed to the infirmary, afterward taken away by relatives, and soon died. The people who adopted the child were sent to prison for three months. A feature of this case was that their own child, despite their surroundings, was well looked after. This is a common experience — the child of the family cared for, the adopted child neglected. There is no case in the court records where this condition has been reversed.


Considerable sums of money are obtained by people with children whom they adopt, though in many cases the children do not reap any benefit. A man and his wife adopted ten children for sums ranging from £5 to £50. It was proved that several thousand pounds had been received by these people, who were prosecuted by the authorities for failing to notify the reception of the children as required under the provisions of the Children’s Act. Five of the children were never allowed out of doors. It has always been part of the adoption agents’ scheme of operation to have babies handed over at railway stations, much of the difficulty in tracing children being due to this fact. One woman in Lancashire, well known to the authorities, and more than once prosecuted for various offences in connection with nursing children, has long been in the habit of sending young children to the north by night trains.


Most of the transactions of her agents are carried out at railway stations. Documents relating to this woman and her doings run into hundreds of folios. Bearing all this in mind, it is somewhat disquieting to learn that the recently formed societies are carrying out the transfer of some of their children at stations. The chief constable of a northern city, with an inspector of the children’s society, interviewed two women who had been seen with children, and the chief constable told them they would be detained until he found out what had become of two children they had disposed of at the railway station. They then gave particulars, though admitting that they very seldom went to see what the homes were like be fore the children were handed over. The attendant at the waiting room stated that the two women came to the room about 10 am., carrying a baby, and remained there until 10:30, when two other women came with a girl, apparently about twelve years old. There was some conversation; the baby was handed over to one of the women, who took it away. No money passed, and no paper was signed.


The two women who arrived first at the waiting room then left, returning shortly afterward with a young woman about twenty years old, who was carrying a baby. She told the woman the child was six weeks old. There was some talk, papers were put on the table, and money was passed. The young, girl went away much affected by parting from her baby. There is an agitation to have a law passed providing for the visitation of adopted children by the Ministry of Health. This reform, if it can be brought about, will greatly hearten those who have for years been striving to mitigate, if not to entirely remove, the grave evils surrounding the subject of child adoption.

[“England’s Unwanted Babies. - The Pitiful Plight Of Helpless Children. - Ingenious Refinements of Cruelty :: Many Masked Schemes of Murder :: Helpless Little Ones Suffer - Lingering Deaths :: Cold-Blooded Actions of Heartless Imposters :: Crusade Against , Professional Baby Farming.” The Mirror (Perth, WA, Australia), Nov. 10, 1923, p. 5]



For more cases of “Baby Farmers,” professional child care providers who murdered children see The Forgotten Serial Killers.


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