Infanticide and infant abandonment in the new south: Richmond, Virginia, 1865-1915

Elna C. Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The Civil War and Reconstruction and the South's postbellum industrialization produced economic dislocation on a tremendous scale. One product of that economic upheaval was an increasing problem of infanticides and infant abandonments. This case study of Richmond, Virginia, examines patterns of abandonment and neonaticide as documented in records of the city almshouse and the city coroner. It demonstrates that race shaped the options available to women with problem pregnancies in that African American women had access to fewer social welfare institutions such as maternity homes. As a result, unmarried black women kept their out-of-wedlock babies more often than did whites, but they also committed infanticide at higher rates than did whites. Moreover, racial trends in infanticides and infant abandonment suggest that Richmond's white working class experienced economic advancements at the turn of the twentieth century, while the city's black working class continued to live in depression-like conditions throughout the period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-211
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Family History
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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