No Birthright: a study of the unmarried mother and her child

Michael Viney’s groundbreaking Irish Times series in 1964 documented the plight of women who gave birth outside of wedlock


Michael Viney explored many of the issues surrounding mother and baby homes in a groundbreaking series in The Irish Times in 1964.

No Birthright, a study of the unmarried mother and her child, examined how the social, political and religious climate of the time conspired to brush these issues under the carpet.

It was reprinted as a booklet and became a text for sociology students in UC, and proved a catalyst in helping to shape new social supports and attitudes towards unmarried mothers.

Here, we revisit the series using our Digital Archive.

No Birthright: a study of the unmarried mother and her child

Part one:

Clare and Danny

‘I’ll do anything to keep my baby. Anything short of prostitution - I’ll draw the line there’

Part two:

The Reckoning

‘If you go besmirching the name of Irish womanhood’, a doctor told me, ‘you won’t be forgiven’

Part three:

The Secret Service

‘Perhaps the one really distressing aspect of these secret service homes is that Irish society should have made such conspiracy necessary’

Part four:

Pregnant from Ireland

‘The initials PFI [pregnant from Ireland] are part of the everyday vocabulary of social workers who help unmarried mothers in London’

Part five:

The Lonely City

‘The Republic is acquiring the reputation both of not facing up to its emigrants’ problems and of pretending they don’t exist’

Part six:

The Chosen Children

‘The child born to an unmarried mother in Ireland stands a four-to-one chance of being adopted.”

Part seven:

The Luck of Love

‘The unmarried mother has the rest of her life to live. Her child’s has just begun. Should we not hate the sin, but love the sinner - and the sinned against?’