35 comments on “Many, many children. 1911.

  1. I’m going to forego the remark I was going to make about overwork how, since they couldn’t have ever been out of bed, since I’m aware childbirth is no bundle of fun and make have been the reason for their demise. But my guess is that there was certainly a shortage of men back then unless the farmer was Cary Grant of course. That may not be the best analogy since I was reading recently that he was gay but I’m sure you know what I mean.. My best friend growing up was one of 13 children the age span was eldest 28 youngest 2 and I know his mother always looked worn out.

    • I can only feel for those poor wives. The husband certainly must have had some appeal, after the first wife the women would have been something like an unpaid servant, wouldn’t they?
      To have had 24 surviving children out of 28 births in 1911 is a pretty amazing feat though.

      We know a family with 8 kids, the husband is so youthful in appearance that he could easily be mistaken for the eldest son, the wife on the other hand is clearly the mother of the horde. Hmmmm, perhaps this is a hint as to who it is that does the bulk of the work!

      • OT: This is interesting about the Cary Grant thing— I had heard the same rumor, but Grant actually wasn’t closeted according to his daughter and all of his prior wives. I just read his daughter’s biography of her father. My gosh, what a father Cary Grant was!

        Back on topic: I wonder what the standard amount of children was per household in that era? Twenty-eight sounds excessive, but what was the average?

        • I just had a quick look and it seems that the average amount around then could have been about 4 children (this is a quick bit of research, so it could be completely wrong!) with the rider that the poorer households were, the more children they had, I’m sure religion came into it as well.

          This bit of information can only lead me to the highly unlikely assumption that my great great grandfather and his wife were desperately poor and highly religious. My great grandfather was one of 15 children born to them between 1861 and 1883. The father of this clan was a transported convict though, so I think that they were probably just poor. And irresponsible. According to history they were certainly ratbags though.

          • I love reading your stuff because I do walk away with some great questions! I wonder what the average was per country/per income at the time— were there good records? Four sounds about right to me, but now I’m even more curious!

            Fifteen children? My gosh! That’s a lot! I knew families growing up that topped out at about eight. They were increasingly rare. My mother’s generation had quite a few more families like that. (As you said, religion plays its part.) What are the averages now?

            You’ve opened up a world of questions, Metan!

            OH! I am reading my very first Terry Pratchett novel. I started with “Going Postal”— enjoying it very much! I also read some of the Tashi books awhile back. Thanks for those recommendations!

          • The 4 child average seemed to be US and England amount for the times. The average here seems around 2ish children per family now, I think that there are far more childless families these days though. I am sure that if we compare the average wages they would be considerably higher these days too.

            15 children is a frighteningly large amount of kids! I have a photo of Great great grandmother Eliza on the wall with one of her daughters (or daughters in law) and grandsons. She looks like quite a formidable woman, as befits a mother of so many!

            I’m so happy to hear you are reading Terry Pratchett, I love the way he looks at the world. Glad to hear you enjoyed Tashi too, aren’t the illustrations beautiful!

          • I know there’s an inverted ratio in America where the more education you have, the fewer children you have, which seems a little sad in a big picture way. I don’t know why that happens, though.

            Fifteen children is practically a full troop! You’re right, Metan! You’d have to be too-oough!

            There are some things on my big master list I haven’t found yet, so I was really surprised to get the Tashi compendium so quickly! It reminded me of Rootabaga Stories (poet Carl Sandburg), but modernized. The illustrations are beautiful!

            Terry Pratchett is making me very happy. This book also makes me want to write more letters. I agree— his vision of the world is so playful, and he’s such a gentle-hearted man!

          • We have the same kind of ratio as well and it seems to be an accepted fact throughout the world that the more educated women are the less children they have. Maybe a by product of education is higher self-esteem and realizing that they can choose the path their life takes and don’t have to continually have babies to be validated.

            If you start with The Colour of Magic you will see the evolution of the Discworld, the books have been written over so many years and are very different now than they were at the start. Each book got thicker and thicker and the ideas more expansive. I love the themes in each book too, Jingo (war and tolerance), Snuff (slavery), Small Gods (gods and belief).

          • I know that amongst my contemporaries, the couples that have had children generally had them later, whenever possible, if they were pursuing an extensive education. (Which makes perfect sense, financially, right?)

            I’m just now finishing “Going Postal!”— I looked for “The Colour of Magic” when I was at the library, but all copies were checked out. I’ll have to go on the holds list. What that magical librarian told me a few months ago was that it is possible to read some of the Discworld series out of sequence, which is nice, but I would at least like to read the first one in order.

            I like the fact that Pratchett wrote them thematically. That’s unusual and cool!

          • Holding off on children for educational/career reasons is a good one, and those I know with professional careers usually have few children, and have them later in life. We had kids late in life after realizing that if we continued to wait until we felt grown-up enough to have them we would never do it!

            The Discworld books can all be read individually but the characters will be more entertaining if you know their back stories. Nation is a book which is not part of the Discworld series but is still Sir Terry at his most wonderful. You will probably love it. 🙂

          • My mother always said, that for first time parents the younger you are, the more stamina you have, the older you are, the more patience you have. Either way, good parenting is possible. I like that idea a lot!

            I’ve put “Nation” on the list! I finished “Going Postal!”— which was a lot of fun, and I’m feeling a bit at loose ends. (I’ve got 20 books from the library. I should not feel this way in the least.)
            : )

          • Aaah, you have too many choices! I know the feeling 🙂 My kindle is bursting with unread books I really want to get into, I can’t start because I can’t decide where to begin!

          • I have a confession to make. I haven’t been to the library in years. I hate giving them back so much that I just buy them so they can be mine (mine, you hear? All mine!!! *manic laughter* 😉 )

            That is why I am totally in love with my kindle. It might not be as lovely as paper books in your hand but when each book costs less then the late fees it would incur, and I get to look at them whenever I please, it is heaven! 🙂

          • I had not started even considering a getting Kindle until you and Meeka started to talk about it. Do you know that you two have me half-convinced that I need to start saving up for one? Compelling evidence!

            Okay, and this makes it all the more compelling? You can download free books from the library system here. FROM the LIBRARY, Metan! On your Kindle!

          • Free books for the kindle are one of the delights of the world! 😀

            If you have the space for books I say paper rules, unfortunately I barely have space for the books I have, let alone any new ones, so the kindle is the perfect enabler for my ‘own the book’ habit. Plus, they are never returned late 😉

          • Do you know what one of the most wonderful things about a kindle is? I can be reading a blog and they might make a reference to a book. I can just reach over to the kindle and have a quick look for it. If the book is there and free I will grab it right away (many things are free).

            If I don’t have the money on my account I will just click ‘try free sample’ and zap! the first chapter is on my kindle in seconds. I did that just this morning with the book ‘The Master and Margarita’ after seeing you all talking about it on ‘Old New or True’. 🙂 Love my Kindle!

          • Good gravy, you’re making a Kindle sound better and better!

            On this trip, I saw twice as many hand-held reading devices from last year. I think the official transition has begun.

  2. That averages out to be 9 and a bit kids per wife. I guess that’s not so bad. When I was a kid we lived down the street from a family of devout Catholics who had 14 children. Ok, ok that was back in the Dark Ages….

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