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Mom: The Transformation of Motherhood in Modern America

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In the early twentieth-century United States, to speak of “mother love” was to invoke an idea of motherhood that served as an all-encompassing identity, rooted in notions of self-sacrifice and infused with powerful social and political meanings. Sixty years later, mainstream views of motherhood had been transformed, and Mother found herself blamed for a wide array of soci In the early twentieth-century United States, to speak of “mother love” was to invoke an idea of motherhood that served as an all-encompassing identity, rooted in notions of self-sacrifice and infused with powerful social and political meanings. Sixty years later, mainstream views of motherhood had been transformed, and Mother found herself blamed for a wide array of social and psychological ills. In Mom, Rebecca Jo Plant traces this important shift through several key moments in American history and popular culture.   Exploring such topics as maternal caregiving, childbirth, and women’s political roles, Mom vividly brings to life the varied groups that challenged older ideals of motherhood, including male critics who railed against female moral authority, psychological experts who hoped to expand their influence, and women who wished to be defined as more than wives and mothers. In her careful analysis of how motherhood came to be viewed as a more private and partial component of modern female identity, Plant ultimately shows how women’s maternal role has shaped their place in American civic, social, and familial life.    


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In the early twentieth-century United States, to speak of “mother love” was to invoke an idea of motherhood that served as an all-encompassing identity, rooted in notions of self-sacrifice and infused with powerful social and political meanings. Sixty years later, mainstream views of motherhood had been transformed, and Mother found herself blamed for a wide array of soci In the early twentieth-century United States, to speak of “mother love” was to invoke an idea of motherhood that served as an all-encompassing identity, rooted in notions of self-sacrifice and infused with powerful social and political meanings. Sixty years later, mainstream views of motherhood had been transformed, and Mother found herself blamed for a wide array of social and psychological ills. In Mom, Rebecca Jo Plant traces this important shift through several key moments in American history and popular culture.   Exploring such topics as maternal caregiving, childbirth, and women’s political roles, Mom vividly brings to life the varied groups that challenged older ideals of motherhood, including male critics who railed against female moral authority, psychological experts who hoped to expand their influence, and women who wished to be defined as more than wives and mothers. In her careful analysis of how motherhood came to be viewed as a more private and partial component of modern female identity, Plant ultimately shows how women’s maternal role has shaped their place in American civic, social, and familial life.    

44 review for Mom: The Transformation of Motherhood in Modern America

  1. 5 out of 5

    passeriform

    [I should preface this review by saying that I read Mom not as a historian studying the twentieth-century US (presumably its primary target audience) but as a parent, a feminist, a scholar, and a childbirth/parenting blogger. And I read it for fun, not as part of research for any particular project. So I'm using the book in a particular way that may not be exactly how Plant intended it to be used. That said ...] The book's final four chapters are very interesting--especially, for me, the final th [I should preface this review by saying that I read Mom not as a historian studying the twentieth-century US (presumably its primary target audience) but as a parent, a feminist, a scholar, and a childbirth/parenting blogger. And I read it for fun, not as part of research for any particular project. So I'm using the book in a particular way that may not be exactly how Plant intended it to be used. That said ...] The book's final four chapters are very interesting--especially, for me, the final three. These discuss: * the interaction between the increasing cultural influence of psychology (specifically, psychoanalytic concepts and beliefs) and ideas about (or rather, criticisms and policing of) mothers and motherhood, * the relationships amongst "the quest for painless childbirth," culturally-specific ideas about the nature of motherhood, and antimaternalist critiques, & * Betty Friedan's book The Feminine Mystique and readers' reactions to it (rethought within the context of the history of 'motherhood' and antimaternalism in the late-nineteenth and twentieth-century US). I had trouble getting into the book. Frankly, I found the introduction and first chapter sort of boring: occasionally illuminating, but not I-have-to-keep-reading-this-book engaging. Having read the whole book, I appreciate the conceptual foundation Plant was building. And I'm glad I kept reading. But I can't say I enjoyed that first chunk, or that it provoked much thought for me. Mom offers, among other things, historical context that I'm finding useful in understanding our culture's ongoing great love affair with mother-blaming. Similarly, it places changing norms about childcare (how intensive, at what ages, to what purpose?; on a predetermined schedule or according to spiritualized 'mother love'? or, quite differently, scientifically-framed 'maternal instinct'?; etc.) in fascinating context.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Priscilla

    I found this book to be an enlightening critique on how American culture defines its expectations of mothers. The aim of this book isn't necessarily a cultural history, but more a cultural commentary leveraging commentaries from mothers and experts alike. I found this book to be an enlightening critique on how American culture defines its expectations of mothers. The aim of this book isn't necessarily a cultural history, but more a cultural commentary leveraging commentaries from mothers and experts alike.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey

  4. 4 out of 5

    Iveta

  5. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

  6. 4 out of 5

    Deb

  7. 4 out of 5

    Zac Christian

  8. 4 out of 5

    Annie

  9. 4 out of 5

    Fe

  10. 5 out of 5

    Josh Houser

  11. 4 out of 5

    Hanna

  12. 5 out of 5

    Libby

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cody

  14. 4 out of 5

    Pen

  15. 4 out of 5

    Becky Tramontozzi

  16. 5 out of 5

    Janice Gable

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kiersten Mc

  18. 5 out of 5

    Felicita

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dustin

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

  22. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

  23. 4 out of 5

    Katie Rose

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cory

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nina

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mollie

  27. 4 out of 5

    missy jean

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anna

  30. 4 out of 5

    Molly

  31. 5 out of 5

    Jeeyon

  32. 5 out of 5

    Moppet

  33. 4 out of 5

    Karen Sichler

  34. 4 out of 5

    Josephine

  35. 5 out of 5

    Janet

  36. 5 out of 5

    University of Chicago Press

  37. 4 out of 5

    Carey

  38. 5 out of 5

    Renée

  39. 5 out of 5

    Meg

  40. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay O'Neill

  41. 5 out of 5

    Julie

  42. 4 out of 5

    Stefanie

  43. 5 out of 5

    Christine Gross-Loh

  44. 4 out of 5

    Paula Michaels

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