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Pregnancy and Power: A Short History of Reproductive Politics in America

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A sweeping chronicle of women's battles for reproductive freedom throughout American history, Pregnancy and Power explores the many forces--social, racial, economic, and political--that have shaped women's reproductive lives in the United States. Leading historian Rickie Solinger argues that a woman's control over her body involves much more than the right to choose an abor A sweeping chronicle of women's battles for reproductive freedom throughout American history, Pregnancy and Power explores the many forces--social, racial, economic, and political--that have shaped women's reproductive lives in the United States. Leading historian Rickie Solinger argues that a woman's control over her body involves much more than the right to choose an abortion. Reproductive politics were at play when slaveholders devised breeding schemes, when the U.S. government took Indian children from their families in the nineteenth century, and when doctors pressed Latina women to be sterilized in the 1970s. Tracing the diverse plot lines of women's reproductive lives throughout American history, Solinger redefines the idea of reproductive freedom, putting race and class at the center of the effort to control sex and pregnancy in America over time. Solinger asks which women have how many children under what circumstances, and shows how reproductive experiences have been encouraged or coerced, rewarded or punished, honored or exploited over the last 250 years. Viewed in this way, the debate over reproductive rights raises questions about access to sex education and prenatal care, about housing laws, about access to citizenship, and about which women lose children to adoption and foster care. Pregnancy and Power shows that a complete understanding of reproductive politics must take into account the many players shaping public policy--lawmakers, educators, employers, clergy, physicians--as well as the consequences for women who obey and resist these policies. Tracing the diverse plotlines of women's reproductive lives throughout American history, Solinger redefines the idea of reproductive freedom, putting race and class at the center of the struggle to control sex and pregnancy in America.


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A sweeping chronicle of women's battles for reproductive freedom throughout American history, Pregnancy and Power explores the many forces--social, racial, economic, and political--that have shaped women's reproductive lives in the United States. Leading historian Rickie Solinger argues that a woman's control over her body involves much more than the right to choose an abor A sweeping chronicle of women's battles for reproductive freedom throughout American history, Pregnancy and Power explores the many forces--social, racial, economic, and political--that have shaped women's reproductive lives in the United States. Leading historian Rickie Solinger argues that a woman's control over her body involves much more than the right to choose an abortion. Reproductive politics were at play when slaveholders devised breeding schemes, when the U.S. government took Indian children from their families in the nineteenth century, and when doctors pressed Latina women to be sterilized in the 1970s. Tracing the diverse plot lines of women's reproductive lives throughout American history, Solinger redefines the idea of reproductive freedom, putting race and class at the center of the effort to control sex and pregnancy in America over time. Solinger asks which women have how many children under what circumstances, and shows how reproductive experiences have been encouraged or coerced, rewarded or punished, honored or exploited over the last 250 years. Viewed in this way, the debate over reproductive rights raises questions about access to sex education and prenatal care, about housing laws, about access to citizenship, and about which women lose children to adoption and foster care. Pregnancy and Power shows that a complete understanding of reproductive politics must take into account the many players shaping public policy--lawmakers, educators, employers, clergy, physicians--as well as the consequences for women who obey and resist these policies. Tracing the diverse plotlines of women's reproductive lives throughout American history, Solinger redefines the idea of reproductive freedom, putting race and class at the center of the struggle to control sex and pregnancy in America.

30 review for Pregnancy and Power: A Short History of Reproductive Politics in America

  1. 4 out of 5

    Finn

    damn! seriously, damn! i read this over a year ago while living in austin and tore threw it. the subtitle explains the book well, but the theme that strings this book (and the ACTUAL history of reproductive freedom (or lack thereof) together is the fact that white supremacy has been completely central the control of ALL women's bodies and choices. oh, and its not just about abortion. a very small portion of the book is devoted to the topic of abortion. major themes are adoption, welfare, maternit damn! seriously, damn! i read this over a year ago while living in austin and tore threw it. the subtitle explains the book well, but the theme that strings this book (and the ACTUAL history of reproductive freedom (or lack thereof) together is the fact that white supremacy has been completely central the control of ALL women's bodies and choices. oh, and its not just about abortion. a very small portion of the book is devoted to the topic of abortion. major themes are adoption, welfare, maternity homes, and teen pregnancy. my commitment to anti-racist feminism was recentered in my priorities upon completing this book

  2. 5 out of 5

    Krissy

    Running themes in this include race, eugenics influence, welfare, abortion, Supreme Court rulings surrounding reproductive health, reproductive coercion, forced sterilization, teenage pregnancy, poverty, the good mother vs the bad mother stereotype, white supremacy, and incarceration. Solinger clearly did her homework. Academic feel with easy to find resources and works cited noted. I was infuriated, heartbroken, and engaged throughout. I will look for more work by Solinger. This is slightly date Running themes in this include race, eugenics influence, welfare, abortion, Supreme Court rulings surrounding reproductive health, reproductive coercion, forced sterilization, teenage pregnancy, poverty, the good mother vs the bad mother stereotype, white supremacy, and incarceration. Solinger clearly did her homework. Academic feel with easy to find resources and works cited noted. I was infuriated, heartbroken, and engaged throughout. I will look for more work by Solinger. This is slightly dated with 2005 as the publish date. The history holds up. I’d be curious to hear some of her thoughts on the last 15 years. Library read. I’d put this on my shelves.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Robyn

    This text should be mandatory reading in college, if not high school. I thought I was pretty educated on reproductive issues, but I was not. I was at the "an abstract of this text would make sense" level of education. I'm involved in politics. I follow legal developments. I still wasn't ready for this knowledge, but I needed it. I cried, and you might cry, and maybe everybody should sit down and cry about it. I will never forget devouring this book with pure horror and astonishment. This text should be mandatory reading in college, if not high school. I thought I was pretty educated on reproductive issues, but I was not. I was at the "an abstract of this text would make sense" level of education. I'm involved in politics. I follow legal developments. I still wasn't ready for this knowledge, but I needed it. I cried, and you might cry, and maybe everybody should sit down and cry about it. I will never forget devouring this book with pure horror and astonishment.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jess

    This book is a dense, academic read, but so revealing and important. I felt like every page had something at which I gasped, or swore, or needed to get up and pace as I worked through the implications. Solinger tells a history of reproduction in America that goes against every notion of constant forward progress we assume in this very future-centric country: that people were much more relaxed and matter-of-fact about unintended pregnancies, out of wedlock, and choices to abort, bear, and rear ch This book is a dense, academic read, but so revealing and important. I felt like every page had something at which I gasped, or swore, or needed to get up and pace as I worked through the implications. Solinger tells a history of reproduction in America that goes against every notion of constant forward progress we assume in this very future-centric country: that people were much more relaxed and matter-of-fact about unintended pregnancies, out of wedlock, and choices to abort, bear, and rear children for the 150 years of our history than we have been since the end of World War II. Another strength of this history is that she tells it from an intersectional perspective--race, class, religion, and economics all factor into the decisions women make, and that men make about women, and Solinger does a great job of highlighting the ways in which white, middle-class mothers are idealized to the point of infantilization, while poor mothers of every color are manipulated and graded in entirely different (often abhorrent) ways. The details and overall trends are surprising and outrageous, and the broad history puts recent events in sharp focus.

  5. 5 out of 5

    heidi

    Essential reading. Solinger links centuries of efforts to restrict reproductive rights in the U.S. to white male supremacy and the evolution of how womanhood has been conceptualized. She reiterates how choice and access have always fallen along race and class lines, with poor women of color facing the brunt of efforts to control women's bodies. These disproportionate effects are compounded by narratives that blame those who are most constrained by their options for the moral degeneracy of the na Essential reading. Solinger links centuries of efforts to restrict reproductive rights in the U.S. to white male supremacy and the evolution of how womanhood has been conceptualized. She reiterates how choice and access have always fallen along race and class lines, with poor women of color facing the brunt of efforts to control women's bodies. These disproportionate effects are compounded by narratives that blame those who are most constrained by their options for the moral degeneracy of the nation — a hallmark of the depiction of America's undeserving poor that underlies modern welfare requirements. Nativist ideas and eugenics movements shaped policies and discourse that sought to selectively breed white babies while curtailing the fertility of minorities (that is, after black slave labor was no longer needed). "By managing the reproductive capacity of different groups of women differently — according to race — social relations could be maintained as they "always" had been. Forced sterilizations, pornographic abortion trials and coathanger hemorrhages color the history of American reproductive rights. We haven't emerged from these trials fully enlightened, however. Today's court threatens a sharp return to regressive policies that put the health and safety of women everywhere at risk. I hope that we don't take this as an opportunity to move back into the darkness. P.S. Please consider donating to an abortion fund in a hostile state where lawmakers are most likely to restrict access, or to Planned Parenthood.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Amyleigh

    Solinger's account of reproductive politics, rights, and injustices in America is so thorough and engaging. Attending to race and class, to inequity in access, to representations of welfare mothers and revered white middle-class mothers, Solinger shows how reproductive rights and choice run along lines of privilege, race, and class. Solinger also includes and tries to centre voices from beyond white feminisms (which often take over in discussions of reproductive choice, birth control, and aborti Solinger's account of reproductive politics, rights, and injustices in America is so thorough and engaging. Attending to race and class, to inequity in access, to representations of welfare mothers and revered white middle-class mothers, Solinger shows how reproductive rights and choice run along lines of privilege, race, and class. Solinger also includes and tries to centre voices from beyond white feminisms (which often take over in discussions of reproductive choice, birth control, and abortion), which I really appreciated. There is so much here to follow about citizenship, care, the nation, the home. This book is the start of a long dive into all of this...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Shana

    Don’t be fooled by the title, because this book definitely isn’t a quick read. It takes time to digest all the information Solinger throws at you. It is, however, a fairly readable text for it being such a heavy topic. Anyone who wants to have the current politics of reproductive health put into historical and social context should definitely read this book. In fact, I challenge anyone to read this and then tell me that the arguments against birth control and abortion have always been the way th Don’t be fooled by the title, because this book definitely isn’t a quick read. It takes time to digest all the information Solinger throws at you. It is, however, a fairly readable text for it being such a heavy topic. Anyone who wants to have the current politics of reproductive health put into historical and social context should definitely read this book. In fact, I challenge anyone to read this and then tell me that the arguments against birth control and abortion have always been the way they’re framed now. I think most people would be surprised to see what a lengthy history these issues have just in the US and how differently they were framed depending on the times. These days the issues are framed in terms of religion and “fetal rights,” but this book expands on it far more to show that issues like gender roles, economic status, white supremacy, and so much more have played significant roles in shaping the issues as they exist now.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Pajor

    A must-read for anyone interested in reproductive rights/justice/politics. I'm going to recommend this one to my friends. It excellently explained how different groups of women have been treated differently over time just because they have the ability to reproduce. We have to learn about and understand the manipulation we have endured in order to fight against it now. A must-read for anyone interested in reproductive rights/justice/politics. I'm going to recommend this one to my friends. It excellently explained how different groups of women have been treated differently over time just because they have the ability to reproduce. We have to learn about and understand the manipulation we have endured in order to fight against it now.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    This is one of the best books I've ever read that gives an intersectional feminist view of women's rights around reproduction. Highly recommended for historians, policy makers, social workers, and human service professionals. This is one of the best books I've ever read that gives an intersectional feminist view of women's rights around reproduction. Highly recommended for historians, policy makers, social workers, and human service professionals.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Saspell

    I read this book right after devouring Dorothy Roberts' Killing the Black Body. They're both very stimulating and well written. I read this book right after devouring Dorothy Roberts' Killing the Black Body. They're both very stimulating and well written.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Alayne

    A bit heavy-handed in its political agenda, I do appreciate the multi-cultural historical perspective.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Shanna

    Really informative and well-researched, but nothing new regarding the arguments.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Pattie

    Rather fascinating American history of reproductive rights. It is political; not personal.

  14. 5 out of 5

    myra

    like Zinn's history of the US, but for reproductive rights... like Zinn's history of the US, but for reproductive rights...

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    The author is able to think in a broader, conceptual context, but lacks the skills in writing and nuance to communicate effectively. There are better books of this kind.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kris

  17. 4 out of 5

    Roxie Brookshire

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

  19. 4 out of 5

    Brittany

  20. 4 out of 5

    Frida Herrejon

  21. 5 out of 5

    Carla

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

  23. 5 out of 5

    clove

  24. 5 out of 5

    Andrew smith

  25. 4 out of 5

    Natasha

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

  27. 4 out of 5

    matt

  28. 4 out of 5

    OTIS

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kate

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