Il destino delle madri nubili negli atti processuali sugli infanticidi e sugli aborti tra il 1860 e il 1910 nell’area triestina
On the basis of court records on abortions and infanticides of the Court of Trieste, this article tries to reconstruct a small part of the history of extramarital affairs in the Trieste Region during the second half of the long 19th century. The analysis is primarily based on the comparison of the circumstances and reasons why unmarried women were committing these (then) crimes. The article focuses particularly on the role of their (extramarital) partners. The dynamics of the relationship between the defendant and her partner may in fact differ substantially depending on whether there was an abortion or an infanticide. During the trials for infanticide, the child’s father is, except in very rare cases, completely absent (the child who was killed immediately after birth by the mother or that was not offered the necessary help is often a result of sexual intercourse with strangers, for example soldiers), while in cases of abortion he is involved in the hearing and often tried as the “instigator” or “offender.” In addition to relations with extramarital partners, the defendants’ motives differ according to the wide social context. As for infanticides the main motive for the crime is the shame of extramarital conception and the obvious consequence of forbidden sexual relations, it is usually they themselves who decide to leave the community where they had conceived. By fleeing, they try to avoid public humiliation, since they have no one to protect them. They are normally women from the lowest social classes without property and with little chance of getting married. The disapproval of others (including parents) and the fear of dishonour prove to be the main causes also in cases of abortion, while the social status of these women, in comparison to that of infanticides, is more heterogeneous. Less frequent is also the act of escaping. (It can be assumed that it is the compassion of other women who are sometimes even prepared to help them to terminate the pregnancy that ties them to the family environment.) The findings in legal acts of course only partly correspond to reality. The credibility of the investigation procedure (and of the testimonies in court) is always uncertain. Despite this, such sources give us the opportunity to analyse (at least partially) the social relations that are, due to its intimate nature, (otherwise) hardly traceable.
EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Ana Cergol, "Il destino delle madri nubili negli atti processuali sugli infanticidi e sugli aborti tra il 1860 e il 1910 nell’area triestina", in "Qualestoria. Rivista di storia contemporanea. Anno XLIV, N.ro 1, Giugno 2016. Sconfinamenti storiografici e attraversamenti di confini", Trieste, EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste, 2016, pp. 81-58
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