The Fallen Woman

by The Foundling Museum, London

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.

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Happening 25 Sep 2015

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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.