25th June 1969

Mother is banished from Jersey for being unmarried

Despite a petition from 1700 locals, and a vibrant “save Maria” campaign run by her employer, Phyllis Rawlinson, the States of Jersey banished Portuguese Maria Batista from the island on 26 June 1969. Why? Because she was the unmarried mother of John, a child born on the island six weeks prematurely.

The 21-year-old, who worked in a knitwear factory, had received more than 30 offers of marriage from men in Jersey who wanted to save her from deportation.

Jersey’s morality code

The Daily Mirror explained that she was “being expelled for breaking the island’s morality code for foreign workers”. She was given until 1 July to find herself somewhere to live, and the Portuguese embassy in London had asked the Home Office to help. Batista said that she could not return to the small village where she had lived in Madeira as she would be treated as an outcast for being an unmarried mother.

Her story was widely reported not only in Jersey but throughout Britain, when it was picked up by the national newspapers. Four days later, the Newcastle Journal reported that a widower in Sunderland, whose wife had died four months earlier, had said he’d be happy to give her a home so she could look after him and his daughter, Pauline.

After considering her case, the Home Secretary, James Callaghan, eventually announced that should Batista come to Britain she would be made welcome.


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