Kudos to Janet Benton , Author of “Lilli de Jong” for writing such a captivating, emotional, intriguing and compassionate novel. The Genres for this novel are Historical Fiction and Fiction. The timeline for this story is around 1883, and the location is mostly Philadelphia. I appreciate the historical research and the resources that the author has used to create this novel. The author discusses that during this time in history, one of the worst crimes that a woman can do, is to conceive a child out-of-wedlock. Often these young women were forced to leave their homes and disowned by their families, and were outcasts. They were encouraged to give up their babies. The survival of these “bastards'” as the children were called was very slim.
The author describes her characters as complex and complicated. There is a difference shown between wealth and poverty. Lilli de Jong , a Quaker who grew up in Germantown believes that her lover will marry her. She winds up pregnant, and abandoned. In 1883 a single, unwed mother to be had very few choices. Lilli does find an institution for unwed mothers, and lives and works there. Like most of the young women there, it is expected that Lilli will give up her baby. These women feel shame , guilt and are frightened.
Lilli notices that after the women give birth, they often have to nurse more than one child. Their babies are taken away, and their prospects are very slim. When Lilli gives birth, she finds herself in love with her little girl, and can’t give her away. In order to survive, Lilly has to find work. She works for a wealthy family nursing their little boy, and cleaning their home. While Lilli works, she has to find someone to nurse and take care of her baby. Often these wet-nurses would feed several babies in terrible conditions.
I love that the author discusses that women have to work hard to survive, despite prejudice and being ostracized from their homes and community. These women have no rights, are discriminated against, and yet to survive they have to be brave, relentless, and courageous. This time period shows no regard or equality for women. I highly recommend this novel to readers who appreciate Historical Fiction.