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Child Welfare

Heritage Community Foundation, Albertasource.ca and The Famous Five Foundation

Child Welfare

Marriage Settlements


Murphy in juvenile courtEmily Murphy was a powerful speaker, particularly on issues surrounding child welfare. Convinced that better parents resulted in better children, Murphy sought to improve the level of parenting in Canada by promoting education and prenatal classes. She also introduced classes designed specifically for children who were coping with disabilities, offering support so that that they too could be useful members of society.

As a police magistrate, Murphy often dealt with children who were brought before her as "juvenile delinquents." It was her great hope that women entering politics would help correct some causes of delinquency, because she believed that many problems were rooted in the child's home life, and women often pursued legislation that strengthened the home.

Murphy lay most of the blame for juvenile delinquency upon the parents, and identified some major causes:

  • Unhappy marriages in which the children catch the brunt of their parents' anger
  • Broken homes: desertion of the home by a parent; separation and divorce
  • Over-indulgence of children by parents, resulting in children who do not understand that there are consequences for poor behaviour
  • Street life, including vending by children
  • Commercialized amusements, like dance halls, that separate young people from the home environment
  • Commercialization of sex in songs, literature, drinks, pictures, vaudeville theatre and jazz
  • Education of children regarding birth control at a "shockingly young" age
  • Poverty

To help remedy the poverty that often resulted when the head of a family was imprisoned, Murphy suggested that the state should either give prisoner's earnings to their family, or provide state support to the needy children.

Murphy was also concerned about the proper education of children, and listed the following as necessary:

  • Children must be taught principles, especially truthfulness
  • Children must not be punished after making a full confession
  • She felt it was everyone's duty to earn a living, and believed that girls should be taught to pay their own bills, as well as boys
  • Cleanliness is vital for health

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