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Vicky Holmes, 'Absent Fireguards and Burnt Children: Coroners and the Development of Clause 15 of the Children Act 1908', 21-58

Article

Published onJan 01, 2012
Vicky Holmes, 'Absent Fireguards and Burnt Children: Coroners and the Development of Clause 15 of the Children Act 1908', 21-58

Abstract
Government intrusion into the homes of the working-classes gained momentum through the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. One hitherto unexamined piece of legislation that sought to regulate behaviour was a clause in the Children Act 1908 pertaining to the use of domestic fireguards. This transpired because of the outcry of coroners who conducted inquests into the deaths of children fatally burned in their homes, supposedly a safe refuge, a space constructed as a maternal responsibility. Coroners increasingly believed such accidents were a result of either maternal carelessness or negligence, especially those involving unguarded fires and
absent mothers. Yet, limited by inadequate laws and unwilling juries, the coroner could do little but admonish the mother. However, growing Government concern over the abilities of working-class mothers and the health of the nation finally brought the issue of absent fireguards and burnt children to Parliamentary debate, culminating in a provision which appeared to have been aimed more at prevention than punishment.

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