The terms, baby farming, and state baby farming arose in the 1800s to describe placing infants and state children with foster carers for a fee. By the late 1860s, the press was reporting notorious cases from across the world. Countless infants died in the 'care' of baby farmers who sought to make a profit out of mothers who had no alternative child care. Mary Burton was convicted of manslaughter for baby farming in Fremantle in January 1888. Alice Mitchell was the most infamous baby farmer in Western Australia, with the Coroner remarking that her practices were 'loathsome, disgusting and immoral.' Mitchell was jailed for manslaughter in 1907, government inspectors were sacked, and the case stimulated wide public interest in child welfare reform in WA.
Sources used to compile this entry: 'The Baby-Farming Case at Fremantle', Western Mail, Perth, 14 January 1888, p. 13, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article32709176; 'Perth Baby Farming Case', Geraldton Guardian, Geraldton, Western Australia, 12 March 1907, p. 6, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66224017; Worral, Jennifer, 'Baby Farming', in Gregory, Jenny and Jan Gothard [editors] (eds), Historical Encyclopedia of Western Australia, University of Western Australia Press, Crawley, W.A., 2009, p. 118.
Prepared by: Debra Rosser
Created: 25 October 2011, Last modified: 27 February 2015