George B. (George Benjamin) Mangold.

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George Leeevre, Editor


A Sociological Study of Illegitimacy, With Particular
Reference to the United States


George B. Mangold, Ph. D.

Director of the Missouri School of Social Economy
University of Missouri



June, 1921





George Lefevre, Editor


A Sociological Study of Illegitimacy, With Particular
Reference to the United States


George B. Mangold, Ph. D.

Director of the Missouri School of Social Economy
University of Missouri



June, 1921


Introduction 1

Bibliography 196

Index 203

Illegitimacy in the United States 14

Causes and Conditions Underlying Illegitimacy 36

Commercial Agencies for the Care of Mothers 80

Philanthropic and Public Agencies 92

*ihe Outcome for the Child .-; 115

Age of Consent 134

Legislative Reform 145

Prevention 184



During the last twenty-five years two books dealing
with Illegitimacy have been written in the English language.
Little has been known about the situation in America and
social workers until recently have given the subject scant
consideration. But times have changed and this problem can
no longer be ignored. Realizing this fact investigators in
various localities have made short surveys and have contrib-
uted to the literature on the subject. In addition to these
surveys two valuable studies have been made by the Federal
Children's Bureau, one entitled "Illegitimacy Laws of the
United States and Certain Foreign Countries," the other,
"Illegitimacy as a Child Welfare Problem." Both of these
reports present excellent information relating to the problem
in the United States. By means of this study the author
hopes to increase the interest now manifested in this im-
portant question. He is anxious particularly to present in-
formation concerning causes and present methods of treat-
ment. A condition which results in almost as many illegiti-
mate children annually as there are divorces is worthy of
serious study.

What are we doing to ascertain and interpret the causes
of this evil? Are we dealing effectively with mother and
child? How about the father? How successful has been our
remedial legislation? Have we an adequate preventive pro-
gram in consideration? These and other questions suggest
themselves. We must, therefore, face this problem fearless-


ly, resolve the causes into their individual and social ele-
ments as far as possible, and then build up a permanent con-
structive program.

This book does not pretend to accomplish these ends.
It recognizes the need of additional case study and of more
conclusive statistics relating to many aspects of the problem.
If, however, it can indicate some forward steps, the author
will be content. Too long have we waited on each other; too
long have we refused to consider impartially the broader hu-
man phases of illegitimacy and the attitude which society
must take towards the men, women and children involved.
Whatever can be done to meet such needs will represent an
important gain.

George B. Mangold.



Not until a few years ago was it possible to discuss sex
problems in public and before mixed gatherings. The topic
of illegitimacy was tabooed and people dared to talk only in
whispers about evidence of immorality and vice. Even to-
day such words as "prostitute," "illegitimate," "bastard" and
similar expressions can with difficulty find a place in our
daily newspapers. Nevertheless, a tremendous change has
taken place in the popular mind. Everywhere individuals
are beginning to speak more freely on some of these forbid-
den subjects. Social workers in particular have recognized
the need of sound public opinion in order that some advance
might be made in the solution of sex problems. Investiga-
tions of various kinds have therefore been instituted and a
pamphlet literature on illegitimacy and allied topics has be-
gun to accumulate. The great world war has accentuated the
problem. In Europe the volume of illegitimacy, as will ap-
pear later, is dangerously great ; moreover, with the out-
break of the war, motives, impulses and tendencies were lib-
erated which have, no doubt, increased the irregular rela-
tions which before were already altogether too common. Our
own illegitimacy rate has been rather low and the problem as
a whole has not given the social worker much serious con-
cern. However, certain social agencies have been forced to
deal with the unmarried mother and her friendless child and
have begun to realize the growing gravity of conditions in
the United States. Furthermore, the entrance of our country
into the great struggle between democracy and autocracy
focused the eyes of thousands, who had not thought of the
problem before, on the moral dangers which usually accom-


2 University of Missouri Studies

pany the abnormal functioning of so large a proportion of the
population. Many social agencies have tried to prepare them-
selves to meet the new situation and an active campaign has
been organized among young women to insure their moral

It is to be hoped that measures of this kind will prevent
any considerable increase in the amount of illegitimacy but
whatever be the results without doubt attention has been
called to this question in so emphatic a way that the lesson
will never be forgotten and as a consequence there will de-
velop a new and saner program for the care of the illegitimate

In the past the world has always tolerated a double
standard of morals. This has especially oppressed the sex
that could not defend itself in a contest of physical powers.
The male has usually been the aggressive, and the female the
passive, sex. Nevertheless, gross deviations by the former
from the path of sex rectitude have received but little con-
demnation, while a slight error of woman has usually been
visited with the swiftest and most condign punishment. The
original sex standards were largely a man-made product.
Woman had but little share in shaping these standards and
she accepted them without much protest. Eventually she ap-
plied them in most rigid manner and as a consequence the
so-called fallen woman has become an outcast while the equal-
ly guilty man has remained in good social standing.

Man has long tried to teach woman the beauty of wom-
an's virtue. The old Roman father plunged his knife into
his daughter's heart rather than see her virtue stained. Ja-
cob's sons spoiled a city because their sister sold her virtue to
Shechem. The ancient German jealously guarded the virtue
of his daughters and taught them the lesson of purity; wher-

Children Born Out of Wedlock 3

ever Teutonic ideals have taken root, chastity of woman has
become almost as dear as life itself.

Society has always struggled with the self-centered mo-
tives of individuals and has found it especially difficult to
temper the selfishness of the male. The noble Roman did
not shrink at the thought of destroying the virtue of a bar-
barian's daughter or even of a helpless Roman woman. Is-
rael's sons did not respect the virtue of Canaan's daughters.
The German was not as true to his neighbor's daughter as
to his own. Had the male applied to himself a small part
of the austere morals he demanded of the other sex, our his-
tory would tell a different story and our morals would be of
different character. But the coercion which man exercised
was never matched by a similar coercion from woman, and
the standards of today condone in man what they hold un-
pardonable in woman. The unmarried mother silently bore
the burden of her transgressions and as an outcast completed
a life full of despair. Few were left to mourn her loss or de-
parture. Her sins had blackened her soul beyond cleansing
and no one could afford to suffer the degradation which com-
panionship with her would inevitably impose. Dishonored,
she sank into a forgotten grave.

In recent years, however, her claims on life and on human
compassion have gradually received a new consideration. In-
stead of being branded with the scarlet letter on her breast
and placed in the pillory on the public square, she has in some
cases obtained a second opportunity and, occasionally, fair
treatment. In literature, maternity unsanctioned by the law or
the church has pleaded for the mercy that ennobles the hu-
man breast, and gradually in law the unmarried mother has
gained new rights. Sentiment, the supreme court of public
opinion, however, has not reversed its decision nor seriously
modified its implications and today the forbidden step still
leads to human desolation and the wilderness of buried hope.

4 University of Missouri Studiks

And yet, not entirely. The dawn of a new day is at hand and
is slowly giving way to justice. This movement has com-
pelled men to become introspective. Is not sin equally black
whether committed by male or female? Has sin a sex? Is
it peculiar to woman? Questions such as these haunt vir-
tuous and socially minded men to whom the unfairness of
today makes its invincible appeal, and to whom the bitterness
that envelops a betrayed woman's soul engenders a sense of
outraged justice. Slowly, men will rise above themselves and
say "we too have sinned." Why do we throw stones? Slow-
ly, men begin to see the injustice which ruins one sex but ex-
cuses the other. Accordingly, a change is gradually taking
place which will not make morality among women less desir-
able, although a greater opportunity for restoration to society
will be given, but which will subject the sexually immoral
male to such disgrace and reprobation that the humiliation
will act as a powerful deterrent.

In other words, moral standards among women are not
to be lowered, but standards among men will rise until the
two intersect and a common ground will be reached. The in-
creased rights and opportunities of woman are partly respon-
sible for this movement. When woman was unfit for educa-
tion, for professional life, for public service, and was usea
chiefly as a beast of burden, for rearing children and for sex
gratification, her rights were precariously few. But the grad-
ual emancipation of woman brings with it not only a release
from galling handicaps in industry, science and education,
but it also forces a reconsideration of the double standard of

The social wrong of today lies not so much in the severe
penalty imposed upon the offending woman, but on the com-
parative immunity granted the more blameworthy men. The
young man falls in love with a virtuous girl ; they promise to-

Children Born Out of Wedlock 5

marry; she is persuaded to yield her body; he repudiates
the woman he has deceived and her maternity is buried in dis-
grace. She becomes an outcast, his sin is soon forgotten ; he
marries another woman or ruins some fresh and innocent girl.
Is it any wonder that in this age of unrest, when justice is be-
ing enthroned, that the women denounce a system which
treats them so harshly and relentlessly?

It is evident that public sentiment concerning illegiti-
macy has been shaped by the operation of several important
factors. The female sex must bear the young. Woman must
carry the physical evidences of approaching maternity and
cannot hide the evidence of her shame. The finger can always
be pointed at her because her guilt cannot remain undiscov-
ered, but the equally guilty man can easily escape, since no
one but the unfortunate woman herself knows his identity.
Pregnancy and child birth label the woman. Next follows the
handicap of caring for the child or the disagreeable task of
disposing of it. Illegitimacy, therefore, imposes on woman a
special burden and her marriageability, as well as economic
and social usefulness, is affected thereby.

. Consequently, the natural and almost inevitable effect
of illegitimacy has been disgrace to woman. Undoubtedly
this result is partly responsible for the high standards applied
lo women both by themselves and the opposite sex. / If im-
morality is so baneful in its physiological and economic con-
sequences, then it is most unsocial and cannot be too strongly
condemned. The physiology of sex is, therefore, one of the
natural, but not necessarily persistent, causes of a double
standard of morals. The handicaps of a woman with her
baby, the comparative immorality, the difficulty in maintain-
ing a livelihood and other correlated conditions have proven
a great disadvantage.

The second factor was the physical superiority and greater
mobility of man. It was difficult to impose penalties on man as

6 University of Missouri Studies

it was almost impossible to prove paternity ; hence, few men
would be disgraced and the disgrace that was attached to a
man was soon forgotten. He did not carry with him the
evidences of his misconduct. People were not constantly re-
minded of his sin ; and therefore an ignorant community
soon forgot to associate a certain man with the offense and
and its consequences. Or a guilty man might flee to some
distant locality and begin life anew without being followed
by public knowledge of his misdeeds. Without the physical
brand of wrong-doing on his person his escape from respon-
sibility has been comparatively easy.

That the double standard of today is, in part at least, the
natural outcome of utilitarian conditions that constantly
shape morals is without question. •> In a society where fore-
sight was slight, solidarity largely absent, and conscious
planning in a primitive state, the double standard arose as
the inevitable result of the requisites of social survival and
individual happiness. Consequently, law and religion both
sanctioned the differences that existed in the respective treat-
ment of offending men and women. The disparity of condi-
tions in the twentieth century is a survival of the coercion
of the ages. It represents the codified results of past exper-
ience and the conservation of a principle that once protected
women from the tendency to practice unlawful sex relations.

In the light of history shall we then say that the double
standard must remain for all time? Is it not true that the
rights and opportunities of women have always been sub-
ordinated to those of men? Yet the woman's movement has
in less than one hundred years gained for women results more
remarkable than had been achieved in all previous history.
Has not the superstition that woman must be subordinated
and discriminated against been largely destroyed? Has wom-
an not gained the right to education, to a professional career,
to voluntary celibacy, to greater freedom of movement, to

Children Born Out of Wedlock 7

greater privileges before the law, and, in some countries, to
the right to participate in the affairs of government and to
a living wage? Without doubt, the social and political eman-
cipation of women is proceeding at a most rapid rate although
the gains are all of comparatively recent time. >The differ-
ence in standards of morals is evidently a case in sex discrim-
ination and is not the only form of discrimination that has
existed. \ The existence from time immemorial of other dif-
ferences has not proven their basic or inherent character. In
fact, many of these are already destroyed. We cannot, there-
fore, conclude on the basis of analogy that the double stand-
ard of morals is either ineradicable or inevitable. Its social
coercion may not be more persuasive than that of other ex-
tinct forms of discrimination.

•v, In this age when all forms of injustice are attacked and,
if possible, reduced or destroyed, the double standard of mor-
als must submit to a new examination of its merits, and if not
based on fundamental conditions of social welfare, its appeal
will fail.-/ Illegitimacy must always bear more heavily on
women than on men since the fundamental nature of male-
ness and femaleness necessitates this difference. If the indi-
vidual effect were the true basis for the moral standard, then
the exactions demanded of woman must be more severe than
the requirements imposed on men. The social effect how-
ever, is the more important influence and must determine
standards. Is our social welfare best promoted by a uniform
standard or by one that discriminates against woman? Do
the factors that once operated to produce a dual standard
still continue in force? Or have they been replaced by new
considerations? One factor of great importance cannot be
passed over without emphasis on its far-reaching influence.
It is the power of human passion. Is it equal in the sexes or
unequal?" If equal, then why the great excess of male im-
morality? If unequal, is the difference inherent or due to

8 University of Missouri Studies

conditions that can be modified? The author does not pro-
pose to oiler the last word on this subject. He does insist
that it has a tremendous bearing on the problems of a single
standard of morals. So-called virtue is of two varieties; that
which results in good actions, no temptations to evil being
present, and that which overcomes temptation and triumph-
antly presents the good. To what extent is the virtue of
woman a victory of mind over body? To what extent in
man? -/This important question is receiving much attention
today, and advanced advocates of social hygiene insist that
"sex necessity" is false doctrine and that perfect continence
is possible. This argument is, of course, advanced to apply
to the great bulk of males, to all except a few who are per-
verts. ,That a large proportion of men are moral is undoubt-
edly true, but the problem relates itself to those, whether a
minority or the majority, who have not remained moral. ' Are
they capable of self-restraint? If so, even though it be more
difficult than in the case of woman, incontinence can be wiped
out and illegitimacy and prostitution eliminated. A higher
ideal will inevitably bring severer condemnation on the of-
fending male and a nearer apporach to a uniform standard of
morals.^ Greater self-control, increased capacity for self-con-
trol and improved social conditions will surely work in the
direction of a single standard of morals.^

More and more the welfare of humanity must be ex-
pressed in terms of mental joy and satisfaction. With the in-
creasing recognition of woman's right to happiness it de-
pends in greater measure than ever before on high ideals and
good morals.., In the near future women will not overlook
immorality among their male friends and finally marry sex-
ually tainted men. The woman of tomorrow cannot respect
the man "with a past." Happy homes cannot be founded on
a dual standard, ^o long as women were ignorant, the men-
ace to the homes was slight, but with the intellectual emanci-

Children Born Out of Wedlock 9

pation of women must come the collapse of the old system
and the introduction of an equality which will force men to
standards similar to those men have enforced on women.

The highest form of mutual respect cannot exist where
dual standards are maintained. Again, the attitude of par-
ents toward children is more wholesome when the parents
thoroughly respect each other. Sons will receive better guid-
ance and daughters will be taught to demand clean compan-
ions. Wifehood, motherhood and childhood all plead for a
uniform level of morals.

Decades must pass, however, before the attitude toward
men will be identical with that toward women. But so long
as it differs, so long men are logically compelled to regard
illegitimacy, immorality and prostitution as tolerable, and
their female victims as inevitable sacrifices to the lust of men.
Nevertheless, logic does not control and immoral women are re-
viled and become social outcasts. - If the double standard is
necessary then these women should receive the respect due
to any group that performs a public service.

| That the social consequences of illegitimacy are disas-
trous admits of no serious doubt. That men are more aggres-
sive than women and also more blameworthy is, furthermore,
true, i From the social point of view, man as the co-partner
and aggressor is the greater offender and his condemnation
should be the more severe. _His actions cannot be extenu-
ated ; and a stern standard of morals must be imposed in
order that deterrent effects may be realized. Society must
make demands proportionate to the conditions. Therefore the
standard of morals should bear more heavily on men than on
women, although the converse is at present the case.

The sex instinct is present in every normal man and
woman. The legal opportunity for that instinct to function
should be gained by all persons some time in life ; that is,
marriage should be within the range of all normal people


10 University of Missouri Studies

The unmarried, whether men or women, must, to remain mor-
al, restrain their sex impulses. To do this their energies and
activities must be directed into other channels and the effect
ot such diversion must overcome the latent but ever present
impulse of sex.

No one has yet informed the world of the width of the
gap between the normal impulse in man and in woman. Yet,
our whole program of social hygiene, sex education and treat-
ment of sexual offenses depends on the answer of this ques-
tion. Have we ever stopped to realize the effect on mind
and sex impulse of the slush and filth with which a large pro-
portion of young boys are bespattered? ' Have we ever at-
tempted to weigh the effect of the false ideals taught to our
youth, of the "manliness" of sex immorality ; of the environ-
ment and coercive habits of adolescence and young manhood?
Suppose the exact environment of the young girls and women
with its ban on the individual right of self-expression, of emo-
tion and sex impulse were imposed on the male sex, what
would be the effect?

| On the other hand, if our young girls should hear the
language and thoughts expressed before the youth of our land
would not an awakening of sex consciousness follow, the
grave consequences of which would appall the world? Even
now we find among the neglected and delinquent girls that
appear before our juvenile courts an astounding mass of
immorality. Is the girl who lives with her family in a single
room, where sex faces her constantly, made sexually preco-
cious, or do her sex instincts slumber on as in the case of
many "sheltered" girls? There is the utmost need of an ex-
haustive case study made by competent persons of one or
two thousand young women capable of interpreting them-
selves and of linking sex instinct with other emotions and
impulses. The sexuality of the unmarried woman is hid un-
der a bushel. She dares not disclose it, yet it surely must be

Children Born Out of Wedlock 11

there, and only too often the dread fact of illegitimacy, prosti-
tution or immorality reveals a condition which should have
received rational attention instead of being shunned and dis-
dained because of a mock modesty. .The woman has yet to
appear who will write truthfully and courageously and con-
structively about her sex and who will open the eyes of the
world to the sex life of women. ;_Yet without such knowledge,
we cannot meet our problems and solve them. We can only
guess and then work in darkness. JNor has the man presented
himself who has weighed the innate and acquired sex impulses
of man and woman and who has given us an adequate basis for
a social program. The physician and physiologists should
face this question fearlessly and not for the sake of develop-
ing some particular propaganda whether good or bad. The
social worker should strive to attain fundamentals. It does
not necessarily follow that because a young woman has been
corrupted, laws punishing the guilty man should be regarded
as a solution of the problem. Nor must we assume that the
coarse woman of the street is an original source of corruption
and that to punish her solves a problem. The moralist has
much to learn about sex life. The time to put on moral blink-
ers or to ignore facts, after the fashion of the ostrich, has
passed. We need to get upon the solid earth, then determine
our latitude and ascertain our whereabouts. _When the phy-

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Online LibraryGeorge B. (George Benjamin) MangoldChildren born out of wedlock; a sociological study of illegitimacy, with particular reference to the United States → online text (page 1 of 17)