Ignorant mothers blamed for high infant death rate
A mother and child on Dublin's Crabbe Lane, 1910 Photo: Reproduced courtesy of Dublin City Public Library

Ignorant mothers blamed for high infant death rate

Published: 22 August 1913

The Dublin Committee for the Prevention of Infantile Mortality has claimed that the high infant death rate in Dublin was largely attributable to ignorance on the part of mothers. Every year 11,000 babies are born in Dublin, of which 660 die annually before reaching their first birthday.

The Dublin Committee for the Prevention of Infantile Mortality provides a staff of voluntary health visitors who instruct mothers in the care of babies and, in cases of destitution, distribute food, milk, coal and clothes.

Presiding at a largely attended meeting of the Committee at the Gresham Hotel last night, Mr. Justice Molony paid tribute to the women on the completion of the second year of their work. ‘The class of work you do’, he remarked, ‘ does not bring you very much into the public gaze. It is not in the homes of the rich or the prosperous or of those fairly endowned with the world’s goods that your work is done. You go into the houses of the destitute, in the poverty-stricken parts of the city, to endeavour to inculcate the great lessons of health and of hygiene and to teach the poor mothers of the city that must be alive to the responsibilities of their position.’

To applause, he added: ‘None of us who take any interest in this class of work can come to any other conclusion but that a great and most excellent work is done when we find that in the course of the year you spent £2 a week on milk for the poor, £16 in penny dinners, supplied a thousand article of clothing, expended £57 on coal, and paid 22,500 visits to the homes of poor mothers.’

Dublin currently has one of the highest birth rates for a city of its size, but also one of the greatest incidences of infant mortality. The Committee highlighted tenement living and the low rates of Mother’s nursing their children as two of the greatest problems to be tackled.

RELATED CONTENT

RTÉ

Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.