Baby Farmers: Women who kill children

Updated 2019 05 14

Some people may wonder what baby farmers were all about.  Wikipedia has an article on the practice of “baby farming.”

Baby farming is the historical practice of accepting custody of an infant or child in exchange for payment in late-Victorian Era Britain and, less commonly, in Australia and the United States. If the infant was young, this usually included wet-nursing (breast-feeding by a woman not the mother). Some baby farmers “adopted” children for lump-sum payments, while others cared for infants for periodic payments. (More at Wikipedia)

The Wikipedia article understates, by a considerable margin, the frequency of the practice of baby farming in Australia and the United States.  Baby farming was a common practice in the U.K., true.

Baby Farmers and Angelmakers:
Childcare in 19th century England

Image related to an article on baby farming

Slum Children, London, c. 1880

An old joke about baby farms urges the listener, presumably ignorant of the true nature of a baby farm, “remember not to plant ‘em too deep or they won’t grow.” But plant them the nineteenth century “farmers” did, as the infants and children under their care died rapidly from illness, malnutrition, neglect, and active abuse. ….

Waters’ trial and conviction inspired several members of Parliament to put forward the Infant Life Protection Act of 1872. This Act attempted to protect the most vulnerable children in England: illegitimate infants who were farmed out to strangers to be raised, or, all too often, planted in their graves. (More)

A more comprehensive list of baby farmers illustrates that the practice of baby farming was very common not only in Australia and the United States but in many other countries.  How could the contributors to Wikipedia not know?

The Forgotten Serial Killers: Child Care Providers (“Baby Farmers”) Who Murdered Children

baby farm – 1.) a place that houses and takes care of babies for a fee. 2.) a residence for unwed pregnant girls or women that also arranges adoptions.

Most of the baby farmers listed here were serial killers. Several notable cases involving murder and abuse by baby farmers that are not serial killer cases.


Abbott, Evelyn (USA), 1891 – scores of babies died.
Andrasen, Fru (Norway), 1901 – 27 infants died.
Ashmead, Elizabeth (USA), arrested 1904, 1909, 1911 – 100s of babies died.
Atherton, Dr. Bessie (USA), (with Cramer), 1926 – 3 dead babies discovered.
Bamberger, Henrietta (USA), 1899 – midwife; 300 est; conv of 1 abort-murder of mother.
Banks, Leila (USA), 1925 – 3 babies died.
Barnes, Catherine (England), 1879 – 3 babies died.
Barthian, Mme. (France), 1893 – 25 babies died.
Batten, Annie (Australia), 1904 – “alleged wholesale infanticide.”
Batts, Ellen (Australia), 1889 – 3 babies murdered.
Bednerek, Ghelente (Josefa) (Poland), 1892 – 15 bodies found.
Bilien, Valentina (Germany), 1946 – 114 babies killed by severe neglect.
Blair, Anne (Australia), 1870 – 1 baby died.
Blicenzyk, Marie (Poland) 1907 – multiple deaths.
Boehme, Frau (Germany), 1912 – 4 deaths.
Christiana Breitschwert, (USA), 1892 – 4 babies abandoned in streets & gutters in winter, 1 died.
Bronzo, Rosa (Italy), 1879 – “several bodies.”
Calahan, Julia (USA), 1871 – 3 babies died.
Campbell, Nellie (USA), arrested 1902 – 8 babies died.
Chard-Williams, Ada (England), 1899 – 1 baby died (executed).
…..(Full list)

Baby farming in Nova Scotia, Canada

There was a case of deadly baby farming in Nova Scotia, Canada.  In that case it has been estimated that between 400 to 600 children deemed not placeable for adoption were killed and buried in butter boxes, incinerated or buried at sea.

The Selling / Murdering of Canadian Babies and Children
The Butterbox Babies Story

The Ideal Maternity Home is infamous for the Butterbox Babies.

The Ideal Maternity Home operated in East Chester, Nova Scotia, Canada from the late 1920s through at least the late 1940s. William and Lila Young operated it. William was a chiropractor and Lila was a midwife, although she advertised herself as an obstetrician. While they were tried for various crimes involving the home, including manslaughter, the entire truth of the horrors perpetrated there was not widely known until much later….(Full story)

It is truly odd that in spite of much evidence to the contrary – evidence that was never hidden and that got much publicity in the media at the time – the myth of female innocence is being maintained with a passion, and numerous sociologists the world over assert that the typical mass murderer is male and Caucasian.

As Hitler said, the purpose of propaganda is not to present the truth with academic fairness.  The purpose of propaganda is to propagate the “truth” it sets out to promote and argue for.

Hitler also said that one should never underestimate the enormous capacity of the masses to forget.

Nevertheless, the web pages identified here tell that during the Victorian Age society took a dim view of women who were habitual baby killers and was likely to have them hanged.  Even that is not the truth, not all of the truth and perhaps something other than all of the truth.

The inability of society to concede that women can be and often are deadly

Infanticide, a euphemism for the murder of children.

Quoted from

In 1922, in England, the crime of murder was reduced to manslaughter, for murderers of victims that had not yet reached more than the age of one to two days. It is intriguing to consider the reasons given in arguments for leniency toward women who kill their children: Hormonal imbalance due to breast feeding; Failure to recover from the effects of giving birth to “such children”.

In her book “When She Was Bad”, Patricia Pearson states this:

In England, support for hormones as the cause of all maternal aggression against infants is enshrined in the law. In 1922, parliament introduced the Infanticide Act, which reduced the crime automatically from murder to manslaughter on the basis of insanity if a mother “had not fully recovered from the effect of giving birth to such child, but by reason thereof the balance of her mind was then disturbed.” The point of the Infanticide Act was not that British doctors had suddenly discovered a link between postpartum hormones and violent behavior. To this day that link hasn’t been categorically established. The point was to rid the courts of the necessity of imposing murder sentences, since juries had been refusing to convict women when the penalty was execution. For instance, following five thousand coroner’s inquests into child deaths held annually in Britain in the mid-nineteenth century, only thirty-nine convictions for child murder resulted, and none of those women were executed.  Similarly, in Canada, when a mandatory death penalty applied to the murder of children, “courts regularly returned ‘not guilty’ verdicts in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.” [p. 80]

It appears that at about the same time as women were given the right to vote, they were also given the benefit of being not accountable for their actions by reason of insanity due to hormonal imbalance.That was just a first step. The age of the children who became victims of child murder within the definition of “infanticide” was extended to one year, from the previously “acceptable” one to two days. Patricia Pearson says:

In 1938, Britain revised its infanticide statute, extending the age of victims from “newly born” to “under the age of 12 months.” To justify this extension, the revised statute cited “the effect of lactation” on a woman’s mind.  It was decided, in effect, that breastfeeding could drive women mad.  The experts who proposed the revision to the courts privately believed that social and psychological factors were more critical than biology.  Studies consistently show, for example, that preexisting histories of depression and life stress are a common denominator in women with postpartum mental disorders.  But psychiatrist J. H. Morton defended the diagnosis of “lactational insanity” as being acceptable to conservative judges and barristers.  It was never proposed that the Infanticide Act forgive mothers for killing older children, spouses or others, even while said to be suffering from the same insanity. [p. 80]

In Canada, there have lately been a few cases where the infanticide excuse was extended to women in instances of child murders involving victims as old as five or more years. (Men, of course, are by law not capable of committing infanticide.  The infanticide excuse applies only when women murder children.)

For women there are excuses galore, and if those are insufficient by chance, we can always invent new ones.

For men there is never an excuse, and if women truly wish to be equal, then there should not be excuses for women either.

By the way, one of the pages you identified is also the one that shows the link to a page with information on the German female war criminals that were sentenced to death in the post-war trials and then subsequently executed (by hanging).

The hanging of those female war criminals was far from being a normal occurrence.  It was far more the norm to hear or read sentiments like this one:

27  Justice Jackson [he had presided over the Nuremberg war trials] declared: “As far as I’m concerned, I would like to make it quite clear, and I believe that at any rate it will be accepted, that the United States aren’t interested in letting their representatives travel for 3,500 miles to indict office employees, stenographers and house keepers.  Those aren’t the kind of crimes that we want to prosecute, even if they knew something; because they aren’t the kind of criminals who endanger world-peace.” IMT (1947 – 1949, volume VIII, p. 494).  Shortly after the end of the war, in the first Euthanasia process, Mar. 25, 1946, the female institution doctor and the institution nurse were sentenced to death.  LG Berlin, 25.03.4611 KS 8/46.  In the second process on Dec 21, 1946, the chief nurse was sentenced to prison and the station nurse  and nurse found not guilty.  LG Frankfurt am Main, 21.12.46.  In the subsequent trials the female and male doctors were sentenced to prison, the registered nurses and the nursing aides as a rule found not guilty.

— A Wife at His Side – Wives in the SS Clan-Community,
by Gudrun Schwarz, Ph.D.,  p. 178
— Translated by Walter H. Schneider,
German title:  Eine Frau an seiner Seite. Ehefrauen in der SS-Sippengemeinschaft

Although Justice Jackson was right about his opinion regarding female innocence as to war crimes being quite acceptable, his fundamental premise of female innocence was and remains quite wrong.  The quarter million German women that married SS officers weren’t just office employees, stenographers and house keepers.  Many of them were ruthless, sadistic torturers and killers, even those who did not marry SS officers.  However, long before the female liberation of the 1960s got on the road, Justice Jackson  and other people like him promoted the whole-sale exoneration of evil women, regardless of ethnic origin, race, colour or creed.

Justice Jackson and his camp followers must surely have gotten something out of that.  At the very least, putting women on pedestals elevated them to facilitate easy and effortless brown nosing.

Consider Richard Stephens’ analysis of the myth of female innocence with respect to the fairly recent denial (but not all that long ago widely acknowledged prevalence) of the phenomenon of female serial killers.


See also:

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