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P.M. Garrett, “The Hidden History of the PFIs: The repatriation of unmarried mothers and their children from England to Ireland in the 1950s and 1960s

This article starts by discussing the law of settlement and removal act of 1847 that was introduced after a large number of Irish came here during the famine. This law did not disappear until 1948. However, the removal of Irish citizens continued into the 20th century and may also have helped define the cultural and institutional responses of English welfare agencies to pregnant Irish women travelling to England to give birth and put their child up for adoption.

In the 1950s and 1960s the initials PFI (pregnant from Ireland) were part of everyday vocabulary for social workers who dealt with unmarried mothers from Ireland. The article details of a Dublin based agency called the Catholic protection and rescue society of Ireland (CPRSI) that would bring Irish girls that had travelled to England back home in the 1960s. When they brought them home, they would send them to an area where nobody knew them, they would have their baby and the agency would keep it all quiet and confidential.

The article also discussed the English catholic rescue society (ECRS). In the mid 1950s the registered ‘cases’ of the ECRS indicated that 61% of almost 800 expectant mothers referred to the agency originated in the Irish Republic. The Article notes many unmarried women that fled to England to give birth were in fear of the incarceration they would face in Ireland. In Ireland the mother and baby home stay was 2 years or longer but the say at and English mother and baby home was as little as 4 months. In most cases the mother would enter the home, the baby would be adopted, and she would leave the home like nothing had ever happened. However, this had some negative effects on the mothers.

The Article also notes the absence of Women and children from Irish historiography partly because of the secrecy of child adoption that many unmarried mothers and expectant children were involved in. However, some historians question what Irish history is.

The article ends by noting that no interviews of the women in these situations were conducted but it could be a subject for future research.

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