If you come from a large family, you've likely had the chance to experience the chaos that family reunions and even family holidays can be. These days however, many families are having less and less children, with the replacement rate (the number of births per woman of child bearing age) decreasing by the year in many countries around the world. Since the 1950s, the total fertility rate in the world has decreased from an average of 4.95 children per woman, to 2.36 children per woman. There is an inverse relationship between wealth distribution in a society and fertility, called the demographic-economic paradox, which shows that as the standard of living increases, families will choose to have less children. The lowest fertility in the world today is in Singapore (a country with one of the highest GDPs in the world), where the average woman of child bearing age has 0.8 children, while the highest rate is in Niger (a country with one of the lowest GDPs in the world), where the average woman of child bearing age has 7.6 children. While that number may seem shocking to many of us growing up and living in 2015, large families are still an important part of cultures and economies around the world. In largely agrarian societies, a large number of children means that families will have more bodies available for work, attempting to attain a better standard of living. Throughout history, some women have given birth to an astonishing number of children, some so shocking, many doubt the validity of the stories. Read on to find out about the women who have given birth to the largest number of children in their lives.
10 Mrs. Harrison - 35 children
Little is known about Mrs. Harrison (including what her first name was), a woman who lived most of her life on Vere Street in London, England. All we know is from a small blurb found in John Mockett's journal, a journal mostly dedicated to various pieces of gossip and interesting stories from London. This speaks of the birth of Mrs. Harrison's 35th child in 1736. It is unknown how many of these children survived or grew up to adulthood, or even how many births she had had over the course of her life. However for a time prior to modern medicine when the likelihood of a woman dying in childbirth was quite common, it is a wonder Mrs. Harrison survived to give birth to a total of 35 children.
9 Elizabeth Greenhill - 39 children
Thomas Greenhill was a well known English surgeon of his time, as well as a prominent educator and practitioner of early embalming practices. He became well known following the publishing of his book The Art of Embalming, at a time when this was not a common burial practice. Thomas was the last of 39 children born to Elizabeth and William Greenhill. What is most peculiar about this family (other than the obvious large number of children), is that all but two twins were born as single births - this means that Elizabeth had given birth a total of 37 times over the course of her life, likely the highest number of births ever recorded per one woman.
8 Alice Hooks - 41 children
All we know about the lady called Alice Hooks was found out from the inscription on her son's tombstone, a small tombstone in the Conway Church cemetery, located in Gwynedd, North Wales – this spoke of how Nicholas, who passed away in 1637, was the 41st of Alice Hooks' children. Little else can be found elsewhere about who this woman was, what life she lead, or how this prominent woman lived. It is unknown if 41 children was all there were, but 41 children is certainly more than enough for any one family, much less for one woman.
7 Elizabeth Mott - 42 children
Born in the village of Monks Kirby, England, Elizabeth Mott married John Mott in 1676, and was the mother to his very large and abundant family. All of Elizabeth's many pregnancies were carried to term and she gave birth to a total of 42 healthy children, but little else is known about Elizabeth, her family, or her many prominent children, and whether they all survived to see adulthood.
6 Maddalena Granata - 52 children
Maddalena Granata, born in 1839 in Nocera, Italy, was rumored to have given birth to 52 children and became quite a celebrity at the time, being referred to as the 'Granata case' - a phrase that at the time would come to be used to refer to unusual births with a high number of children. Although it is likely that not all of Maddalena's children survived, little can be found about either this prolific mother or her family. Regardless, 52 births is an overwhelming number for anyone, and many believe this may have either been exaggerated, or entirely an urban legend.
5 Barbara Stratzmann - 53 children
Born in 1448 in Bönnigheim, Germany, Barbara Stratzmann was rumored to have given birth to a total of 53 children. By the time she was 50 years old, she had given birth a total of 29 times, including five sets of twins, four sets of triplets, one set of sextuplets, and one set of septuplets (that's 7 children born at once). Of Barbara's 53 children, 19 were stillborn, not an unusual occurrence in the era before modern medicine. Still, 34 of the children survived to see adulthood, making it one overwhelmingly large family to be a part of.
4 Leontina Albina - 55 children
Born in 1926 in Chile, Leontina Albina holds the modern record for the highest number of births for one individual woman. She claimed to have been mother to a total of 64 children. Of the 64 children, only 55 were documented, at a time when that was not an uncommon occurrence in Chile. Regardless of the accuracy of her story, whether she was mother to 64 or 55 children, both are remarkable numbers. According to her husband, 11 of her children unfortunately perished during an earthquake in Chile, and only a total of 40 children grew up to see adulthood.
3 Mrs. Kirillov - 57 children
Mrs. Kirillov was a peasant woman from the village of Vvedensky, Russia, who over the course of her life, gave birth to a reported 57 children. These were the result of only 21 births, including ten sets of twins, seven sets of triplets, and four sets of quadruplets. Because little information can be found about this case, some believe it may have been an exaggeration or even an urban legend. However, documentation regarding this family can be found, revealing that the Kirillov family, including all 57 children, were present in Court sometime in 1755, adding some validity to the story.
2 Mrs. Gravata - 62 children
The Gravata case made quite a stir in the newspapers of October 1923, when it was revealed that a woman from Palermo, Italy, had recently become mother for the 62nd time over the course of her life. Her name was Rosa Gravata (born Rosa Salemi), and her pregnancies included two sets of triplets, a set of quadruplets, a set of quintets, and a set of sextets (that's 6 children being born at once), with the rest of the children being results of single births. All 62 children were born healthy, but it is unknown whether they grew up to see adulthood.
1 Mrs. Vassilyev - 69 children
Little is known about Mrs. Vassilyev (including her first name), but what we do know about her has earned her the title of the 'most prolific mother ever' in the Guinness World Records. She was a peasant that lived in the 18th century in Shuya, Russia, who over the course of her life, gave birth to the highest recorded number of children per one woman - 69 children! These children were a result of 27 births that spanned between the years 1725 and 1765 (a total of 40 years between pregnancies), and included sixteen pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets, and four sets of quadruplets. What's even more unusual is that all but two of her children survived. Can you imagine the family reunions at the Vassilyev household?