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Mother Mary an unwed mother sent to a mother and baby home in 1970: The story behind the painting.

Updated: Nov 20, 2023

Mary was my mother, she was a bit of a hippy, trippy chic of the 60's who became pregnant out of wedlock, she inspired me to paint the painting "Mother Mary" shown below..

I had captured the essence of what I wanted to convey very early on. But something kept me going, which seemed to be a deep inner turmoil of mixed emotions that I needed to explore, I was unable to put this painting down and stop! It’s been, chopped and changed, maybe over worked? However, one area of the painting has always remained and that is her eyes. Her eyes tell the story of an anguish, turmoil and shame, all of which were unjustified and unfair. Because in the minds of the church and society, she was immoral, a fallen woman, discriminated against and would be compared to a criminal who had broken the law. Be told she is an unfit mother and that she must give her daughter away. This is where my story begins, but my mums story began way, way before this, she was well aquatinted with this system and their savage laws as she herself was sent to a children’s home at the age of two along with her siblings. She stayed in various homes around Derby until she was thirteen to fourteen years of age.

From that age onwards she would go between her parents home and various foster placements until she was discharged from welfare and social services at eighteen. So, her eyes portray the yearning and longing to not give her daughter away. But she feels helpless, hopeless and that she must do as she is told to give her daughter a better chance in life. She spent eight days with me, wouldn’t have been able to bond or breast feed and then we separated ways, as she was discharged home. From this point I have no idea where I went, I don’t think it would have been a very loving environment. I would have been a new born in a very hostile world, not loved or held nor able to make a safe attachment to another. But I’m not entirely sure what it was like for me, as there are no records to state where I was for those first eighteen months. A lot of babies were taken to a residential nursery where only their basic needs would have been taken care of. Was I one of those babies? I don’t know, I do know that the laws, churches and government policies throughout this time got it wrong. My mum was about to become one of the million and a half women who were made to give up their child for adoption, because of family and social pressures of this era. There have been and are still now repercussions all around the world because of this. It is a basic human right for a mother and her baby to be together and to have support in being so. And only if she is a threat or a danger to her baby should there be any external interventions, otherwise the only intervention she should receive is support, help and guidance so that mother and baby stay together. I know my mum was not at her best stage of her life when she was carrying me and had me, but she didn’t deserve the treatment she received. She needed support and she never got this. My mum worked as a nanny for a young family after she had me and it was this mother who helped my mum get me back. As with most women who went through similar experiences, she remained silent on this part of our life's and never really spoke to me about it.

With this painting I worked through a lot of emotional turmoil relating to this era of my life. There are a lot of references to our life's at this point in time, The baby is hidden behind palm leaves and clutching onto rosemary beads that are hanging broken over Mary's chest. Mary has the markings of war paint on her face to signify the warrior in her that will later lend her strength. If you'd like to know more about my work and this painting, come see it all in exhibition at the end of April, details below. I’ve decided to do no more on this piece of work, it is finished. I started painting it over a year ago, I’ve picked it up and then put it away. It’s taken me on a journey of self discovery through truth seeking, to which I continue to seek out answers and ask the questions to why a part of my early life I seemed to be an invisible baby. #motherandbabyhomes #injustice #babyscoopera #unwedmothers #thegirlswhowentaway #Coalition of Mother And Baby home Survivors #residentialbabyhomes

The final painting can be seen at the Banks Mill Open Studios. Now on exhibition along with other paintings created by Sara Jane Boyle





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jeananneboyle
jeananneboyle
Feb 04, 2023

Like all your work Sara this is an amazing painting of your beautiful mum Keep painting, so looking forward to your exhibition x

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