There was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn't know what to do;
She gave them some broth without any bread;
Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.

there was an old woman who lived in a shoe

Allegory of England

This nursery rhyme dates back to eighteenth-century England and is said to be a reference to the English Parliament—portrayed as an old woman. When you turn the map of Great Britain 90 degrees clockwise, you can see that it resembles an old-fashioned shoe. The many children in the rhyme represented the colonies England had established around the world and the way they were treated. As you can imagine, London handled its territories in an abusive manner.

Queen Caroline

Another interpretation suggests it's a reference to Queen Caroline, wife of King George II  (1683-1760), who had eight children.

George III

Yet another interpretation speaks of King George III of England (1738-1820). Also known as “The Mad King” or “The King Who Lost America” due to his later-in-life mental illness, he could have been the old woman mentioned in the rhymes. The children may refer to members of Parliament, while the bed symbolizes the Houses of Parliament.

Modern Controversy

There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe Volland illustrarion Modern controversy has risen due to the last line about the woman “whipping” her children. Corporal punishment of children is illegal in many countries and states, and so there has been debate over whether the line should be changed or omitted from the rhyme. 
Proponents of changing the rhyme argue that it sends a negative message to children that physical punishment is a suitable way to discipline them, and that this message should be changed to reflect more modern attitudes to child discipline.
Opponents of changing the rhyme argue that it is a traditional piece of literature that should remain unchanged. They further argue that the line is not actually about using physical punishment to discipline children, but rather refers to a strict bedtime regime that the old woman enforces with her many children.

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