Scandal at the Jane

In April 1936, there was outrage when the Isle of Man Examiner published a story about a teenaged mother turned away from the doors of the Jane Crookall Maternity Home because she was pregnant and unmarried.

Doctor Dorothy Pantin’s reply in the Isle of Man Times a week later, makes it clear that the girl was turned away because she wasn’t booked into the home and hadn’t been examined by a doctor beforehand. This controversy gives some insight into the procedures of the Home, and the struggles associated with encouraging expectant mothers to prepare for the birth of their child and access antenatal care. It also highlights attitudes at the time.

From the Isle of Man Examiner, 10 April 1936




“These words were used in reference to the Jane Crookall Maternity Home when it was opened nine years ago. It cannot be denied that it has filled an important place in the national life of the island, and the general body of the Manx people have shown their appreciation by generous responses to its funds year after year.

Having said that much it is now my painful duty (writes an “Examiner” representative) to complain, on behalf of the public, against the unChristian attitude adopted towards an expectant mother who was anxious to avail herself “of the comforts and skilled attention offered.”

This particular mother-to-be made the usual application for admission to the Home and her name was put on “the waiting list.” In the course of time, she presented herself at the institution… it was in the early hours of the morning and her condition was quickly approaching the critical stage… Imagine her mental stress when she was told she could not be admitted because the child she was soon to bear had not been “sanctified” by the ceremony of marriage!

…Just another unfortunate girl, and more unfortunate because the powers in control of this public, or at least semi-public institution, had laid it down that no unmarried mother should be given “comfort and skilled attention” within its walls during the biggest crisis that womanhood has to face.

“I am deeply interested in maternity work and the welfare of the mother and her baby” said Lady Butler when presiding at the last annual meeting of the Home, “for I have seen some of the frightful things that can happen if that work is not properly carried out.”

In this case, the expectant mother was denied admission, and some “frightful thing” might have happened had she not been able to obtain attention in another institution… and one administered by a department of the Island’s Government and which, in ordinary circumstances, might be expected to be more difficult to enter than one so largely financed by public subscriptions.

Turned away from the Maternity Home, the anguished girl was taken to the Braddan Infirmary where the staff showed much of the milk of human kindness towards her… and barely an hour after her admission, her baby came into the world.

Common Humanity.

With all the power at my command, I protest against the treatment accorded to this girl by those in charge of the Maternity Home and more so, because this is the third time such a thing has happened although this news has only been revealed as an outcome of the present case. Common humanity demands shelter and attention to any woman facing childbirth, and the attitude adopted by the committee of the Home is incomprehensible, to say the least of it.

The matter has been the subject of correspondence between the Mental Hospital Board, the administrators of the Mental Hospital and Infirmary, and the Maternity Home authorities, and if any disclosure will result in an official statement giving an assurance that such an inhuman thing will never happen again, the public conscience will be satisified.

From the Isle of Man Times, 18 April 1936

…[Dr Pantin writes]”If you had recalled these better traditions of the Press, I should have told you that in the first place your statement of the facts is incorrect; the patient referred to had no booked at the Home, nor had she been put on the waiting list, and had not been sent there by a doctor.

The rule of the Home is that no patients, married or unmarried, are admitted unless they have been seen by a doctor. The rule makes no discrimination against the unmarried (in fact 68 such cases have been treated have been treated at the Home)…

[The Times reporter continues] The second condition for the admission for a single girl is that she must pay the fee – £2 – for the two weeks convalescence int he Home in advance, or she must be vouched for by some respectable person. The reason for this rule must be obvious also. It is to keep undesirable people out of the Home to which decent mothers go for care and attention.


If a respectable girl seeking admission is unfortunately without means, there is attached to this home a little body of kindly women, who adopt the mother for the time being, pay her fees, provide the baby with clothing and so on, and in many instances provide the mother with clothing as well. They seek no public recognition for the work they carry out. Nothing is in writing; it is just one of those Christian-like actions which women do and say nothing about, and which the world very frquently knows nothing about. There is no rule at the institution that single girls cannot be admitted. As a matter of fact, 68 illegitimate children have been born at the Home.

When the lady called and made these inquiries, she was told what the position was and she went away apparently satisfied. nothing more was heard of the proposed entry of this girl. No bed was reserved, no date was given, and the matron was not aware of the identity of this unfortunate child, who, after all, is only 17 years of age.

The Manx public was quick to respond, with Letters to the Editor featuring a range of opinions.

From the Isle of Man Examiner 17 April 1936


Sir – Common humanity demands shelter and attention, I most heartily agree, and compliment the “Examiner” for taking up on behalf of the woman concerned. it is a most distressing business, and I feel ashamed, as a Manx person, to think that such a mean, class distinction exists in the land of my birth. How can we sing “the island so free and so fair” when in reality it does not exist? Cut up this sham, and let’s be fair to all – rich and poor alike. I believe the Jane Crookall Home was founded for all cases, and not just a mere “£.s.d.” or class home. When in my youth at a Manx village school, we used to sing something that reminds me of this case:-

“Two babe were born in the self-same town,/On the very self-same day,/They laughed and cried in their mothers’ arms,/iIn the very self-same way./Both were pure and innocent as falling flakes of snow,/But one of them lived in the terrace house,/And one in the street below.

Yes, that’s the snag, Mr. Editor – the terrace house and the mean street by the wayside. Is the Christian spirit out of date in some of the Manx institution? My true little song of long years ago terminates by saying that the two babes lay dead on the self-same day, but in heaven none will know whether we lived in the terrace house, or down in the street below.

True enough, the Island can be proud of one outstanding feature in public life, and that is the “Isle of Man Examiner”, which is not afraid to expose the sham and the mean – Yours, etc.,   “MANX KID”

In the Isle of Man Examiner, 24 April 1936


Sir – In reply to you and the “Manx Kid” re the Maternity Home. So much talk that is one-sided, sounds like Manx farmers selling and buying cattle; but that is beside the point; why not sell the newspaper and printing press, and with the cash from the sale of same built your Ideal Maternity Home for Harlots and Loose Livers. It would soon be full, and constantly with your “poor girls,” who boast about the cheap cost of first-class treatment that they get now and they don’t always rear their offsprings. One “poor girl” I know of has four in a home.

If a few of these “poor girls” were medically examined, there would be quite a few isolation cases. I guess you, Mr. Editor, and quite a number of “Manx Kids” never hear of, or know, the meaning of the word “anti-natal.”

The word money does not enter into this matter of maternity at all. Dr. Dorothy Pantin is right (with the capital R); the word “cleanliness” is the all-important word; in this lovely Island, Mr. Editor, there are still some people who refuse to be bathed, and who refuse clean linen to wear or to sleep on, and not all poor people either. Anyone who has had the pleasure of knowing Dr. Dorothy knows the kindliness of her heart, the amazing skill of her fingers, the broadness of her mind, and the tremendous amount of good work that she does for the poor classes as an honorary surgeon, as well as honorary doctor.

When you learn more, Mr. Editor, you will be able to print a better newspaper and in better taste. Or perhaps you would rather sell the newspaper business and build the aforementioned Ideal Maternity Home and show Dr. Dorothy, and all our other honorary doctors, how to run the medical profession. – Yous, etc., “ALMA MATER”

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