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«Et skjærende misforhold mellom lovens hensikt og dens virkninger»: - Single Mothers and Midwives Respond to the Castberg Laws, 1916-1940



f. 1985, PhD 2013, Assistant Professor of History, Luther College, Iowa, US.

SammendragEngelsk sammendrag

Implementation of the Castberg Laws in 1916 significantly impacted the lives and livelihoods of single mothers and midwives. The maternity policies included in the legislation on «Assistance for Children» and «Children Whose Parents are not Married» promised these women economic benefits, while simultaneously bolstering health and welfare officials’ authority over maternity. This article argues that single mothers’ and midwives’ individual and collective responses to these policy effects ultimately influenced the interpretation and revision of policy at the local and national levels. In doing so, this research contributes to historiographic discussions of women’s participation in the creation of welfare states and the extents and limits of state power and control and women’s agency.

«Et skjærende misforhold mellom lovens hensikt og dens virkninger»: Single Mothers and Midwives Respond to the Castberg Laws, 1916-1940

Implementation of the Castberg Laws in 1916 significantly impacted the lives and livelihoods of single mothers and midwives. The maternity policies included in the legislation on «Assistance for Children» and «Children Whose Parents are not Married» promised these women economic benefits, while simultaneously bolstering health and welfare officials’ authority over maternity. This article argues that single mothers’ and midwives’ individual and collective responses to these policy effects ultimately influenced the interpretation and revision of policy at the local and national level. Many single mothers did not apply for assistance and those who did tried to avoid some of the more onerous criteria. These types of response at times led local officials to implement stricter measures and controls over the women who received support under the Castberg Laws. Midwives attempted to use the Laws to gain greater professional concessions from the government, but their participation in the implementation of these policies complicated the relationship they had with birthing women and the state. Women’s varied reactions to the impact the Laws had on their daily lives prompted small and large-scale changes that affected the shape of some of Norway’s earliest and most ground-breaking social policies. This research contributes to historiographic discussions of women’s participation in the creation of welfare states and the extents and limits of state power and control and women’s agency.

Keywords: Castberg Laws, maternity policy, welfare state, women’s history.
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