“Protecting Mothers and Children:” The Castbergian Children’s Laws and Maternity Assistance for Single Mothers in the 1910s
Norwegian women who did not qualify for maternity benefits under the sickness insurance law often sought public assistance from another law passed in 1915. Written by feminist Katti Anker Møller and her brother-in-law Johan Castberg, the Castbergian Children’s Laws guaranteed certain rights of inheritance to illegitimate children and granted single mothers access to financial assistance during confinement. Due to the rights this legislation granted illegitimate children, the Laws were contested and garnered international attention. This chapter shows how Møller and Castberg were able to get these controversial laws passed by framing the discussion of the laws as a form of protection for children and their mothers. This led to the passage of maternity assistance that was more comprehensive than the provisions outlined under the sickness insurance laws. Yet the assistance was also more restrictive and means-tested than the insurance benefit, and the chapter documents how Møller and Castberg’s rhetoric of protection led to this outcome. The chapter also outlines reasons why the Castberg Laws were passed in Norway at a time when many European countries limited welfare policies to women they found “deserving:” mainly widows and married mothers.