Mothering and motherhood 7/28/2013 8:26:00 PM
Ideologies and Practices of ―good‖ Motherhood From the 1800s to the
Mothering Versus Motherhood
The invention of Motherhood: From agriculture to Urbanization
WW2 and Beyond: The Privatization of Motherhood as Full-Time Mothering
1990s and Beyond: Intensive Mothering: Emerging from Neo-Liberalism and
as a Backlash to Feminism
What is a good mother?
Heterosexual, White, Middle class, Sexless, Fit, Able-bodied
This image is culturally invented, not natural, not inevitable, it is not a given.
What we mean by ―mothering‖ is culturally determined
What a good mother was in 18th century- would be charged with child-
abuse, negligent etc- Image has changed dramatically over time.
What causes it to change?
The meaning of good motherhood changes as a result to significant
transformation in her societal, economical environment.
Adrienne Rich- 1976
2 meanings of motherhood
Mothering- experience of mothering
Motherhood- institution that says how mothers should be
How has the institution caused the ―mother‖ to change?
If institution effects what motherhood means- it is not inevitable/natural, but
can be changed, have different meanings.
We can mother against motherhood- move from motherhood to mothering.
Agricultural, pre-industrial society:
What it meant to be a good mother- rural communities in Europe
Traits of a good mother: no public/private split- prior to industrialization-
they would work from home- same physical space. Grow their own food,
make their own clothing, raise their own meat- did not buy everything-
productive unit. Not a cash economy but work took place at home.
Husbands and wives were equally important and active- economic producers
alongside their husbands. In such an economy- mothers did not have time for motherhood – 15/16
years- half of them would live to adulthood- she would be constantly having
She has work to do- her labour is needed elsewhere- who is minding the
children? Age appropriate kids would also be doing some work- eggs, wood.
The little ones (4-) were watched by an older sibling, elderly parent. Mothers
did not raise their own children- someone else was.
Unlike today where having someone else look at your kids is looked down
One custom that was very common- practice of swaddle their infants and
hang them in trees- (that’s where the Rockaby baby lullaby came from).
Wet-nursing was common- women would have a baby- could be any age.
Aristocracies- the nurse would come live with them. Wet nurses- poor
women- watched all the kids from the village (till they are 2)- non-hygienic
conditions, many babies died- and mothers knew that before sending them
Industrial revolution’s effect on motherhood- work gets taken out of the
home- public and private sphere- gradual but happened everywhere.
Huge migration to cities- farmers moved to the city
Importance of class division
middle class- leave the farm behind and go to a house- the man would go
out to work for paid wage- they buy the things they used to produce
Why does the woman not go to work? Why was she the one left behind? It
was a patriarchal culture- against the law to go get a job. Could not get an
education/ training- not available to women until mid/late-1800s
Class becomes an issue- very few jobs that a ―lady‖ could do- not in a
factory- prior to marriage you could be a governess, writers- after marriage-
she could not be anything but the mans wife.
1950s Australia- if you were teacher- upon marriage you were fired.
With the rise of industrialization- woman becomes weak and passive (after
being in the domestic realm) good, chaste, subsurbian, irrational (men
aggressive strong, intellectual, rational)
!9thcentury europe- middle class- Romanticised for being a ―good mother‖
but not doing any work- Identity of motherhood was invented in 19 century – were still not doing work of mothering- servants, slaves- cook, laundress,
wet-nurse, teachers, nurse-maid etc. She was preparation of self (3/4 hours
to dress up)- and keeping up her image of leisure- visiting etc.
Volunteerism- helping the poor- working for homeless children etc.
Working class women- Did not go to a house- had to work alongside her
husband- gone to the factories etc