Tag: Motherhood

Journey Into Mothering with Historian Sarah Knott

In Mother Is a Verb, Sarah Knott takes her reader on a historian’s journey into motherhood. It is a sort of train travelogue, riding along parallel rails: personal memoir and wide-ranging social history. The path of the narrative is dictated by the chronology of the memoir, starting with choosing to try for a pregnancy, and… Read more →

Pharmacological Innovation and the Desire to Simplify Postpartum Depression

At the end of March, Sage Therapeutics announced FDA approval for the intravenous and hospital-supervised use of their new postpartum depression (PPD) drug, Zulresso (brexanlone). The possibility of a new way to help women who are struggling with depression after childbirth is an exciting and important development, especially with claims that around 11% of new… Read more →

Whose Milk? Changing US Attitudes toward Maternal Breastfeeding

In the spring of 2018, government delegates from around the world gathered in Geneva, Switzerland for the World Health Assembly in affiliation with the United Nations. Delegates from Ecuador introduced a resolution, outlining a policy supporting maternal breastfeeding and calling for better regulation of the marketing of breastmilk substitutes. Most delegates expected the resolution to… Read more →

Hospital Confinement: From the 19th Century to the 21st

Last summer I had a very different experience of childbirth than most women. I was not entirely sure what to expect when my husband drove me to the emergency room on the night of July 4, leaking amniotic fluid 10 weeks early. Rather than the straightforward checking of vitals and intermittent monitoring as labor gradually… Read more →

Fantasy and Folklore in Childbirth Narratives

Before the age of Facebook and parenting blogs, how did women exchange knowledge and beliefs about reproduction? Without What to Expect When You’re Expecting, how did society and “experts” tell women how to manage pregnancy? These are questions often posed by students in my classes, who assume that “in the past,” there was a deafening… Read more →

Let’s Question All Versions of the Myth of Perfect Motherhood

I would call it a “pet peeve,” but the stakes are higher: I can’t stand policy arguments based on inaccurate or misrepresented historical facts. My latest peeve-trigger? Claire Howorth’s cover essay in Time magazine, critiquing “The Goddess Myth: How a Vision of Perfect Motherhood Hurts Moms.” Now, I agree with much of Howorth’s criticism of… Read more →

On Poverty, Morality, and Mothering

In 1930, nineteen-year-old black (preta) Jovelina Pereira dos Santos, a live-in domestic servant in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, hid her pregnancy from her family and employers, gave birth in secret, and asphyxiated her newborn immediately after delivery. Santos already had a young son named Ernesto who was a little over one year of age. Santos… Read more →

Mothers’ Natures: Sex, Love, and Degeneration in the Nineteenth-Century United States

Every so often, some viral article or other will declare that science “proves” or “confirms” that intelligence is inherited from mothers. (I know, because my own mother will promptly share it on Facebook.) Swiftly, of course, revisionary articles will appear correcting or debunking this claim, chastising armchair geneticists for their overly-simplistic understandings of the X-chromosome…. Read more →

Me, Me, Me: Millennials, Midwives, and the Ongoing History of Female Self-Care

Several articles from reputable sources such as NPR and The Guardian have recently focused on the millennial generation’s supposed obsession with self-care. On the surface, this trend seems to fit nicely with the stereotypes that millennials are entitled and narcissistic. Looking closer, however, reveals that instead of seeing self-care as a generational issue, we should… Read more →

Dorothy Bruce Weske: Academia and Motherhood in the Mid-Twentieth Century

In 1934, in her mid-thirties and single, Dorothy Bruce defended her dissertation at Radcliffe College on thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Convocations, a name given to a category of English church councils. In 1937, her work, Convocation of the Clergy: A Study of its Antecedents and its Rise with Special Emphasis upon its Growth and Activities in… Read more →