baby, baby Edith

(Spoiler Alert: This is about last season of Downton Abby.)

TBP_9950Thinking of Edith’s plot line in Downton Abbey. How does one convey the shame an unmarried pregnant woman carried for centuries?

Centuries. Shame. No mercy. Kicked to the curb. Outcast. Pariah.

Downton got close to it in earlier seasons when we followed the housemaid seduced by the convalescing soldier who died. His parents would take the baby, without her. She said no. But historical catch 22. Who is going to hire a housemaid without references? And baby meant no references. She ended up in prostitution. And then she gave the parents the baby. The parting scene between her and the baby conveyed a bright, sharp, real sliver of historical pain to viewers.

Edith’s plight was shortchanged. She had relatives and money to help her, but she still had to hide. I needed to see her give birth, nurse (as is implied in the plot), and walk away from the little being she loved. I needed to feel the historic mercilessness of unmarried pregnancy no matter what your circumstances. I can still remember the girls who got pregnant in my high school, how we whispered about them. How we had no absolutely no mercy for them.

roseThere are centuries of pain in women’s history. Of being used: raped and incested and/or punished for giving in to sensuality.

Immense and implacable.

That describes the historical fate of an unmarried pregnant woman. Right now, right here in river city, we have the story of a 16-year-old who put her newborn in a dumpster. I feel anguish. It’s better than it used to be, but it’s still bad….thank God we can vote, have birth control, and are allowed to make money. Otherwise, we are at the mercy of the times and our bodies, and the times are only a little more civilized about pregnant unmarried women than they used to be. Only a little bit.


5 responses to “baby, baby Edith

  1. Right on Karleen! Is Lady Mary’s story (which new beau do I choose??) so much more compelling than Edith’s experience with birth and new motherhood? I can’t believe they just skipped over 8 crucial months.

  2. I am very sympathetic to your post on the unwed mothers. Then I turned to the history of King Charles II of England. The number of mistresses and their children is staggering. He appears to have taken good care of those children, naming them and giving them titles. Mistress Nell Gwynn seems to be celebrated and congratulated. What a contrast. AAL

  3. I think Edith is the most interesting character in the series. I expected her to give up the child, have second thoughts, try to get it back, perhaps “adopt” and “unfortunate child” of a “distant relative” whose parents have died…Attitudes have changed, but money and social standing still make a difference.

  4. I am still hoping Edith gets her child back and that her family will stand solid behind her. Horrifying story about the 16 year old and her baby in Houston.
    Shame on countries, states, cities, towns and communities that don’t cherish the well fare of children; newborns or sixteen year old children.

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