View all projects The Fallen WomanArt Happens



By The Foundling Museum, London


Caro Howell

Director, The Foundling Museum

  • £25,382Raised
  • 198Funders
  • Happening25 Sep 2015

Help us to reveal for the first time the fascinating stories of the Victorian women who gave up their babies to the Foundling Hospital in our forthcoming exhibition.

Rewards View all rewards

The Foundling Museum tells the story of the Foundling Hospital, established in 1739 to care for babies at risk of abandonment. In the 18th century, the foundlings' mothers were guaranteed anonymity and their experiences were poorly recorded, so their voices are frustratingly absent in the museum. However, in the 1830s the admissions policy changed; in order to be admitted, babies had to be illegitimate and the mother previously respectable – women had to give detailed written explanations of their situation. We are currently researching these extraordinary records in our archives.

We want to bring these hidden stories to life for the first time in our autumn exhibition, The Fallen Woman (25 September 2015 to 3 January 2016). By presenting these real women’s lives alongside fictional images of 'fallen women' from the period – through paintings, newspaper illustrations and stereoscopes – we will reveal how art and popular culture mythologised the idea of the ‘fallen woman’ while also bringing to life the individual testimonies of real mothers, some who managed to get their babies into the Hospital and the many more who didn’t.

Please help us raise the money so that we can give these women a voice and shed new light on this previously unexplored area of our archives. In return for your donation, you will receive one of a number of wonderful rewards. These include postcards, limited-edition prints by Richard Wentworth and tote bags inspired by Lemn Sissay's Foundling mural, as well as the chance to dine with our director in the museum’s splendid Court Room, as a thank you for your support.

Latest updates

Comments 0

  • Thank you
  • 3 August 2015
  • By Caro Howell
  • Thank you to everyone who donated to The Fallen Woman’s Art Happens campaign.

Comments 0

  • Art is happening!
  • 29 July 2015
  • By Caro Howell
  • Thank you to all of our funders, who have helped us raise an incredible £24,957 towards our autumn exhibition, The Fallen Woman.

Comments 0

  • Interview: Steve Lewinson, musician
  • 28 July 2015
  • By Caro Howell
  • Find out more about a specially commissioned sound installation – featuring actress Maxine Peake (pictured) – which will bring to life the voices of the Foundling Hospital mothers.

Comments 0

Comments 1

  • The history of the locket
  • 13 July 2015
  • By Caro Howell
  • We are incredibly grateful to everyone who has donated to our campaign so far and are delighted that so many of you have chosen the locket as your reward.

Comments 0

  • Interview: Professor Lynda Nead
  • 6 July 2015
  • By Caro Howell
  • We chat to curator Professor Lynda Nead about our forthcoming exhibition, The Fallen Woman, which we're crowdfunding – the exhibition explores the Victorian idea of the ‘fallen woman’ as mythologised by art, and as experienced by women applying to leave their babies at the Foundling Hospital.

Comments 0

Some updates aren't shown. To view them you must be a funder. Donate now to view them.

Comments (8)

  • Caro
  • 20 July 2015 - 12:27
  • Thank you to everyone who has left messages of support and shared their personal stories. The Foundling is home to so many stories of empathy and emotional courage, and we feel very privileged when people add to them with their own. Caro Howell, Director.

  • Sonia, London
  • 27 June 2015 - 10:43
  • Such a wonderful project. This is very dear to me as not only did I grow up around the corner from the museum and play in Coram's Fields as a child, but I have also recently discovered a foundling in my family tree, albeit from another country. I hope that the target is reached and very much look forward to seeing this.

  • Tuzie, London
  • 24 June 2015 - 09:56
  • My mother was made to give her first child up for adoption in the 1930s and carried her 'secret and shame' for almost forty years. Thankfully society has changed and no longer blames the mother or stigmatises her child.

  • Caro
  • 23 June 2015 - 17:57
  • Dear Angela, thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. All donations of any size are very much appreciated and will help us let these women’s voices be heard, so thank you very much for your support.

  • Angela, Southampton
  • 23 June 2015 - 11:11
  • The Foundling Museum was a profoundly moving place, allowing me to understand my place in history as a single parent. It is easier to engage with issues that have trickled down the generations. The Museum helps me see how many of today's attitudes have deep roots. I am grateful for the opportunity to keep my child, but would like to see remaining stigma obliterated. I think the stories must be told and I applaud you for your work. Wish I could contribute more.

Share this article