Modern Motherhood

An American History

Modern Motherhood

How did mothers transform from parents of secondary importance in the colonies to having their multiple and complex roles connected to the well-being of the nation? In the first comprehensive history of motherhood in the United States, Jodi Vandenberg-Daves explores how tensions over the maternal role have been part and parcel of the development of American society. Modern Motherhood travels through redefinitions of motherhood over time, as mothers encountered a growing cadre of medical and psychological experts, increased their labor force participation, gained the right to vote, agitated for more resources to perform their maternal duties, and demonstrated their vast resourcefulness in providing for and nurturing their families. Navigating rigid gender role prescriptions and a crescendo of mother-blame by the middle of the twentieth century, mothers continued to innovate new ways to combine labor force participation and domestic responsibilities. By the 1960s, they were poised to challenge male expertise, in areas ranging from welfare and abortion rights to childbirth practices and the confinement of women to maternal roles. In the twenty-first century, Americans continue to struggle with maternal contradictions, as we pit an idealized role for mothers in children’s development against the social and economic realities of privatized caregiving, a paltry public policy structure, and mothers’ extensive employment outside the home. Building on decades of scholarship and spanning a wide range of topics, Vandenberg-Daves tells an inclusive tale of African American, Native American, Asian American, working class, rural, and other hitherto ignored families, exploring sources ranging from sermons, medical advice, diaries and letters to the speeches of impassioned maternal activists. Chapter topics include: inventing a new role for mothers; contradictions of moral motherhood; medicalizing the maternal body; science, expertise, and advice to mothers; uplifting and controlling mothers; modern reproduction; mothers’ resilience and adaptation; the middle-class wife and mother; mother power and mother angst; and mothers’ changing lives and continuous caregiving. While the discussion has been part of all eras of American history, the discussion of the meaning of modern motherhood is far from over.

Mother Is a Verb

An Unconventional History

Mother Is a Verb

Welcome to a work of history unlike any other. Mothering is as old as human existence. But how has this most essential experience changed over time and cultures? What is the history of maternity—the history of pregnancy, birth, the encounter with an infant? Can one capture the historical trail of mothers? How? In Mother Is a Verb, the historian Sarah Knott creates a genre all her own in order to craft a new kind of historical interpretation. Blending memoir and history and building from anecdote, her book brings the past and the present viscerally alive. It is at once intimate and expansive, lyrical and precise. As a history, Mother Is a Verb draws on the terrain of Britain and North America from the seventeenth century to the close of the twentieth. Knott searches among a range of past societies, from those of Cree and Ojibwe women to tenant farmers in Appalachia; from enslaved people on South Carolina rice plantations to tenement dwellers in New York City and London’s East End. She pores over diaries, letters, court records, medical manuals, items of clothing. And she explores and documents her own experiences. As a memoir, Mother Is a Verb becomes a method of asking new questions and probing lost pasts in order to historicize the smallest, even the most mundane of human experiences. Is there a history to interruption, to the sound of an infant’s cry, to sleeplessness? Knott finds answers not through the telling of grand narratives, but through the painstaking accumulation of a trellis of anecdotes. And all the while, we can feel the child on her hip.

Blessed Among Women?

Mothers and Motherhood in the New Testament

Blessed Among Women?

Mothers appear throughout the New Testament. Called "blessed among women" by Elizabeth in the Gospel of Luke, Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the most obvious example. But she is far from the only mother in this canon. She is joined by Elizabeth, a chorus of unnamed mothers seeking healing or promotions for their children, as well as male mothers, including Paul (Gal 4:19-20) and Jesus. Although interpreters of the New Testament have explored these maternal characters and metaphors, many have only recently begun to take seriously their theological aspects. This book builds on previous studies by arguing maternal language is not only theological, but also indebted to ancient gender constructions and their reshaping by early Christians. Especially significant are the physiological, anatomical, and social constructions of female bodies that permeate the ancient world where ancient Christianity was birthed. This book examines ancient generative theories, physiological understandings of breast milk and breastfeeding, and presentations of prominent mothers in literature and art to analyze the use of these themes in the New Testament and several, additional early Christian writings. In a context that aligned perfection with "masculinity," motherhood was the ideal goal for women-a justification for deficient, female existence. Proclaiming a new age ushered in by God's Christ, however, ancient Christians debated the place of women, mothers, and motherhood as a part of their reframing of gender expectations. Rather than a homogenous approval of literal motherhood, ancient Christian writings depict a spectrum of ideals for women disciples even as they retain the assumption of masculine superiority. Identifying themselves as members of God's household, ancient Christians utilized motherhood as a theological category and a contested ideal for women disciples.

Forget "Having It All"

How America Messed Up Motherhood--and How to Fix It

Forget

A clear-eyed look at the history of American ideas about motherhood, how those ideas have impacted all women (whether they have kids or not), and how to fix the inequality that exists as a result. After filing a story only two hours after giving birth, and then getting straight back to full-time work the next morning, journalist Amy Westervelt had a revelation: America might claim to revere motherhood, but it treats women who have children like crap. From inadequate maternity leave to gender-based double standards, emotional labor to the "motherhood penalty" wage gap, racist devaluing of some mothers and overvaluing of others, and our tendency to consider women's value only in terms of their reproductive capacity, Westervelt became determined to understand how we got here and how the promise of "having it all" ever even became a thing when it was so far from reality for American women. In Forget "Having It All," Westervelt traces the roots of our modern expectations of mothers and motherhood back to extremist ideas held by the first Puritans who attempted to colonize America and examines how those ideals shifted--or didn't--through every generation since. Using this historical backdrop, Westervelt draws out what we should replicate from our past (bringing back home economics, for example, this time with an emphasis on gender-balanced labor in the home), and what we must begin anew as we overhaul American motherhood (including taking a more intersectional view of motherhood, thinking deeply about the ways in which capitalism influences our views on reproduction, and incorporating working fathers into discussions about work-life balance). In looking for inspiration elsewhere in the world, Westervelt turned not to Scandinavia, where every work-life balance story inevitably ends up, but to Japan where politicians, in an increasingly desperate effort to increase the country's birth rates (sound familiar?), tried to apply Scandinavian-style policies atop a capitalist democracy not unlike America's, only to find that policy can't do much in the absence of cultural shift. Ultimately, Westervelt presents a measured, historically rooted and research-backed call for workplace policies, cultural norms, and personal attitudes about motherhood that will radically improve the lives of not just working moms but all Americans.

Mother

An Unconventional History

Mother

What was mothering like in the past? When acclaimed historian Sarah Knott became pregnant, she asked herself this question. But accounts of motherhood are hard to find. For centuries, historians have concerned themselves with wars, politics and revolutions, not the everyday details of carrying and caring for a baby. Much to do with becoming a mother, past or present, is lost or forgotten. Using the arc of her own experience, from miscarriage to the birth and early babyhood of her two children, and drawing on letters, diaries, court records and paintings, Sarah Knott explores the ever-changing experiences of maternity across the ages. From the labour pains felt by an enslaved woman to the triumphant smile of a royal mistress bearing a king's first son; from a 1950s suburban housewife to a working-class East Ender taking her baby to the factory; these lost stories of mothering create a moving depiction of an ever-changing human experience. 'A joy to read' New York Times 'Timely and fascinating' Amanda Foreman 'Utterly compelling' Financial Times 'Knott manages to combine scholarship with personal experience in a heartfelt and original way. Every mother-to-be should read it' Sunday Times 'Wonderful... This is history at its best: writing that unfolds the past and sheds light on the present' Financial Times 'A stunning book, riveting from beginning to end' Diane Atkinson, author of 'Rise Up Women!: The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes'

Mom

The Transformation of Motherhood in Modern America

Mom

In the early twentieth century, Americans often waxed lyrical about “Mother Love,” signaling a conception of motherhood as an all-encompassing identity, rooted in self-sacrifice and infused with social and political meaning. By the 1940s, the idealization of motherhood had waned, and the nation’s mothers found themselves blamed for a host of societal and psychological ills. In Mom, Rebecca Jo Plant traces this important shift by exploring the evolution of maternalist politics, changing perceptions of the mother-child bond, and the rise of new approaches to childbirth pain and suffering. Plant argues that the assault on sentimental motherhood came from numerous quarters. Male critics who railed against female moral authority, psychological experts who hoped to expand their influence, and women who strove to be more than wives and mothers—all for their own distinct reasons—sought to discredit the longstanding maternal ideal. By showing how motherhood ultimately came to be redefined as a more private and partial component of female identity, Plant illuminates a major reorientation in American civic, social, and familial life that still reverberates today.

An American Triptych

Anne Bradstreet, Emily Dickinson, Adrienne Rich

An American Triptych

Traces the lives of three American women, Puritan, Victorian, and modern, and compares the themes and philosophy of their poetry

Mothers Making Latin America

Gender, Households, and Politics Since 1825

Mothers Making Latin America

Mothers Making Latin America utilizes a combination ofgender scholarship and source material to dispel the belief thatwomen were separated from—or unimportant to—centraldevelopments in Latin American history sinceindependence. Presents nuanced issues in gender historiography for LatinAmerica in a readable narrative for undergraduate students Offers brief, primary-source document excerpts at the end ofeach chapter that instructors can use to stimulate classdiscussion Adheres to a focus on motherhood, which allows for a coherentnarrative that touches upon important themes without falling into a“list of facts” textbook style

An Anthropology of Biomedicine

An Anthropology of Biomedicine

An Anthropology of Biomedicine is an exciting new introduction to biomedicine and its global implications. Focusing on the ways in which the application of biomedical technologies bring about radical changes to societies at large, cultural anthropologist Margaret Lock and her co-author physician and medical anthropologist Vinh-Kim Nguyen develop and integrate the thesis that the human body in health and illness is the elusive product of nature and culture that refuses to be pinned down. Introduces biomedicine from an anthropological perspective, exploring the entanglement of material bodies with history, environment, culture, and politics Develops and integrates an original theory: that the human body in health and illness is not an ontological given but a moveable, malleable entity Makes extensive use of historical and contemporary ethnographic materials around the globe to illustrate the importance of this methodological approach Integrates key new research data with more classical material, covering the management of epidemics, famines, fertility and birth, by military doctors from colonial times on Uses numerous case studies to illustrate concepts such as the global commodification of human bodies and body parts, modern forms of population, and the extension of biomedical technologies into domestic and intimate domains Winner of the 2010 Prose Award for Archaeology and Anthropology

Unnatural Selections

Eugenics in American Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance

Unnatural Selections

Challenging conventional constructions of the Harlem Renaissance and American modernism, Daylanne English links writers from both movements to debates about eugenics in the Progressive Era. She argues that, in the 1920s, the form and content of writings by figures as disparate as W. E. B. Du Bois, T. S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, and Nella Larsen were shaped by anxieties regarding immigration, migration, and intraracial breeding. English's interdisciplinary approach brings together the work of those canonical writers with relatively neglected literary, social scientific, and visual texts. She examines antilynching plays by Angelina Weld Grimke as well as the provocative writings of white female eugenics field workers. English also analyzes the Crisis magazine as a family album filtering uplift through eugenics by means of photographic documentation of an ever-improving black race. English suggests that current scholarship often misreads early-twentieth-century visual, literary, and political culture by applying contemporary social and moral standards to the past. Du Bois, she argues, was actually more of a eugenicist than Eliot. Through such reconfiguration of the modern period, English creates an allegory for the American present: because eugenics was, in its time, widely accepted as a reasonable, progressive ideology, we need to consider the long-term implications of contemporary genetic engineering, fertility enhancement and control, and legislation promoting or discouraging family growth.