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Mom: The Transformation of Motherhood in Modern Americaby Rebecca Jo Plant
"What caused attitudes about a mother's love to change so dramatically? This is the central question in Rebecca Jo Plant's Mom, which traces the complex social and political transformation of middle-class motherhood in American and the ways in which women conceived of that role." Nicole Rudick, The Millions (Read the entire Millions review)
Synopses & Reviews
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.
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.
About the Author
Rebecca Jo Plant is associate professor of history at the University of California, San Diego.
Table of Contents
Debunking the All-American Mom: Philip Wylie's Momism Critique
Mothers of the Nation: Patriotic Maternalism and Its Critics
Pathologizing Mother Love: Mental Health and Maternal Affectivity
Banishing the Suffering Mother: The Quest for Painless Childbirth
Mother-Blaming and The Flaming Mystique: Betty Friedan and Her Readers
What Our Readers Are Saying
Health and Self-Help » Child Care and Parenting » Mothering