Fatherhood, religious belief and the protection of children in nineteenth-century English families

Doolittle, Megan (2007). Fatherhood, religious belief and the protection of children in nineteenth-century English families. In: Broughton, Trev Lynn and Rogers, Helen eds. Gender and Fatherhood in the Nineteenth Century. Gender and History. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 31–42.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-230-20785-1_2

URL: http://www.palgrave.com/products/title.aspx?is=140...


A core aspect of fatherhood in nineteenth-century England was providing protection for dependants, a complex role which shaped inequalities of power between genders and generations. The transmission of religious and moral orthodoxies between generations emerged as a key index of fatherly competence and a significant arena for the reshaping of familial relationships. In this chapter, three case studies are used to explore these processes: the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley; Annie Besant, the campaigner for secularism and worker’s rights; and Chester Armstrong, a mineworker and socialist. Each of these parents adopted a radical perspective towards religious belief which profoundly challenged norms of parenting, masculinity and fatherhood. Throughout this period, mothers were seen as playing an essential role in inculcating moral ideals, but protection was framed around the presence of a father who was both responsible and in control of the moral safety of his children. Most fathers struggled to do what they thought was right, even when this meant overriding social conventions, in order to pass on their values and ideas to their children. However, mothers claimed a stronger voice in bringing up children through linking their longstanding concern with child care with a desire to be effectively protective, while at the same time there was a growing view that fathers should offer a protectiveness which would allow their children to grow and develop as individuals, rather than imposing rigid conventions and discipline upon them. Through day to day conflicts and interactions relating to moral and religious belief, family life and the position of fathers within it were subject to constant examination and, over the course of the century, social transformation.

Viewing alternatives


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions
No digital document available to download for this item

Item Actions