Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Barbara Cartland on the needs of children

It's time for a final post on Barbara Cartland the social critic and reformer. We have seen her views on women in wartime and seen her helping Gypsies and travellers, so let's see more or her views on children.

Here expression of horror at the death of Dennis O'Neill is followed in The Years of Opportunity 1939-1945 is followed by wider foreboding about the lives of children in public care:

How many Dennis O’Neills who don’t actually die are living a life of cruelty and torture, of privation and utter hopeless misery? How many little boys and girls are existing in filth and degradation in Public Institutions without any knowledge that there is love and kindness in a world which to them is only harsh and horrible?

I remember a little boy who came from a public institution to live in the cottage next ours at Great Barford. He was three years old, but he had never seen a toy of any sort, and when my boys gave him some of theirs he didn’t know what to do with them.

Lady Allen of Hurtwood was one of the first people to champion the cause of ‘nobody’s children’. She was laughed at when she first stated that she thought something was wrong. As chairman of the Nursing School Association she visited homes and institutions and what she found was appalling.

I have written about Marjorie Allen and her agitation on behalf of children in care during the second world war before - 20 years later she was prominent in the adventure playground movement.

Respectable society tends to treat children in care as though they were dangerous or criminal, so it's striking when Cartland writes:
No child can thrive without love, attention and understanding. Crime records show that the majority of child delinquents come from homes and institutions. Can one be surprised? 
There are in the country at the moment 125,000 children deprived of a normal home life, and 60,000 illegitimate babies are born every year. These forgotten, unwanted, ill-treated, unloved children are another of Britain’s ‘distressed areas’ for which she must - and immediately - make reparation.
And Cartland shares the indulgent view of boyish mischief that you sometimes find in female Tory writers - think Angela Thirkell or Richmal Crompton. Here she says:
In the past there have been too many old magistrates ready to send a high-spirited boy who tried commando tactics on an apple tree to an approved school. Laws and controls have never made good citizens, and they never will - it is love and understanding, justice and freedom, which build a nation of strong and honourable men.
Nor is she all theory: in The Years of Opportunity she described herself bursting into a stranger's hotel room to stop a little girl being beaten.

There is much too on the problems caused to children by their mother's remarrying after the death of their husband and by her absence from home because of war work, but modern liberals tend to dismiss the possibility of such problems.

So there you have Barbara Cartland. Her wartime memoirs have shown me you should be wary of judging someone from their media image late in life.

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