Synopses & Reviews
After decades of decline during the twentieth century, breastfeeding rates began to rise again in the 1970s, a rebound that has continued to the present. While it would be easy to see this reemergence as simply part of the naturalism movement of the andrsquo;70s, Jessica Martucci reveals here that the true story is more complicated. Despite the widespread acceptance and even advocacy of formula feeding by many in the medical establishment throughout the 1940s, andrsquo;50s, and andrsquo;60s, a small but vocal minority of mothers, drawing upon emerging scientific and cultural ideas about maternal instinct, infant development, and connections between the body and mind, pushed back against both hospital policies and cultural norms by breastfeeding their children. As Martucci shows, their choices helped ideologically root a andldquo;back to the breastandrdquo; movement within segments of the middle-class, college-educated population as early as the 1950s.
That movementandmdash;in which the personal and political were inextricably linkedandmdash;effectively challenged midcentury norms of sexuality, gender, and consumption, and articulated early environmental concerns about chemical and nuclear contamination of foods, bodies, and breast milk. In its groundbreaking chronicle of the breastfeeding movement, Back to the Breast provides a welcome and vital account of what it has meant, and what it means today, to breastfeed in modern America.
takes the reader back to the stunning changes that took place from the mid-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century in shifts from maternalism to attacks on ‘momism and then to mothers self-fulfillment. Using articulate womens statements, Rebecca Jo Plant revises the historical narratives of feminism, the therapeutic culture of the United States, and, above all, motherhood.”
“In this compelling meditation on the absence of ‘mother love in contemporary U.S. discourse, Rebecca Plant shows how a multi-sided shift in views of motherhood occurred over the course of the twentieth century, one of such proportions that the cultural context could no longer support maternalist politics. Ranging from Gold Star Mothers through natural childbirth, Mom
offers fresh interpretations of major figures such as Philip Wylie and Betty Friedan and makes the case for treating the decades from the 1920s through the early 1960s as one period of sweeping change. This is essential reading for all historians who are interested in the gender politics of modern America.”
“In her highly readable book, Plant brilliantly illuminates some of the most vexing paradoxes of twentieth-century gender and feminism. Her account of how Mother was demoted from moral and civic paragon to Mom, hub of personal and emotional fulfillment, suggests that American women paid a high price for the privilege of making motherhood an individual choice. The decline of maternalism and the new age of Mom ushered in the cultural environment we still inhabit today, along with its unending work and family conflicts. Plant offers a wonderfully original analysis of why it has become more difficult than ever for women to live simultaneously as mothers and human beings.”—Ellen Herman, University of Oregon
“American historians have long struggled to understand the confluence of factors contributing to the erosion of nineteenth-century conceptions of Moral Motherhood: those assumptions about female selflessness, purity, and self-sacrifice that authorized white, middle-class women to participate in shaping twentieth-century civic culture. Explanations of the transition from maternalism to contemporary perceptions of mothering as a private experience—simply one choice among many that a woman may elect in the course of a lifetime—have, until now, been unsatisfying and partial. At last, Rebecca Jo Plant has identified social, political, cultural, and biomedical factors that ordained this change by the mid-twentieth century. Offering new and complex ways of thinking about this monumental transition, her book will inform work on modern American politics, culture, and society for years to come.”
Filling a void in the scholarship, historian Plant (Univ. of California, San Diego) offers an intriguing examination of the death of the "moral mother," a concept that, as many historians have argued, grew out of Republican motherhood and solidified in the US during the Victorian era. By the start of the 20th century, motherhood was seen as a woman's highest calling, a role marked by a mother's self-sacrifice and devotion to her children above all else. According to Plant, however, this notion of moral motherhood would be yet another casualty of the impact of modernity on US society, the assault beginning in the interwar years and accelerating after WW II. Using a vast array of primary sources, she argues that the critics of exalted motherhood were many, from Philip Wylie, who emphasized the negative impact on men, to Betty Friedan, who focused on the stultifying effects for women. In this way, Plant posits that "the demise of moral motherhood" led to the rise of the white middle-class women's movement in the 1960s. Well written and thoroughly researched, the book provides an engaging examination of the cultural reconstruction of motherhood in the modern US. Summing Up
: Recommended. Most levels/libraries. -- K. B. Nutter, SUNY Stony Brook
andquot;In this lucid, well-researched, and much-needed book, Martucci offers a lively account of how approaches to breastfeeding have evolved since the 1930s in ways that have consistently reflected changingandnbsp;beliefs about nature, motherhood, and domesticity. Martucci unearths fascinating connections between the resurgence of breastfeeding in the 1970s and the emergence of a new ecological consciousness, and she provides the first in-depth history of the rise of the breast pump in the 1990sandmdash;a technology that has enhanced our market-oriented tendency to privilege the breastmilk (the andlsquo;productandrsquo;) over the act of breastfeeding. Back to the Breast will be of interest not only to historians and scholars, but also to all mothers who have faced decisions about how to feed their infants while meeting the myriad other demands upon them.andquot;
andquot;This important book reconsiders much of what we know about the history of breastfeeding in the United States. Martucci uncovers the hidden story of the determined women who breastfed their infants when bottlefeeding ruled the day and of breastfeeding defenders as they weathered a variety of cultural storms. Through it all, Back to the Breast traces the emergence and evolution of and#39;natural motherhood,and#39; an ideology that justified and sustained breastfeeding against the demands of scientific motherhood, posed political problems with the rise of feminism, and lost much of its purchase in an era of the breast pump. By respectfully examining womenand#39;s appeals to nature in their fight for bodily autonomy, Martucci provocatively urges her readers to consider the political power of biological arguments in the larger struggle for maternal and womenandrsquo;s rights. Highly recommended.andquot;
"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 )
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.
By chronicling the and#147;back to the breastand#8221; movement among American mothers, Jessica L. Martucci provides a welcome account of what it has meant to breastfeed in modern America. She reveals why breastfeeding practice made a comeback in the second half of the twentieth century, even amid overwhelming advice from medical and scientific experts advocating the sufficiency, if not the superiority, of bottle-feeding. While rates of breastfeeding fell throughout the 1950s and and#145;60s, only to rebound in the and#145;70s, the return to breastfeeding began several decades earlier. Its statistical reemergence was preceded, the author shows, by the development of an ecological and evolutionary view of motherhood, family, and nature that continues to shape ideas, policies, and expectations surrounding breastfeeding in America to this day.and#160;
About the Author
Jessica Martucci is a fellow in the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. She lives in Philadelphia.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Why Breastfeeding?
Chapter 1. Make Room for Mother: The andldquo;Psyandrdquo;-entific Ideology of Natural Motherhood
Chapter 2. Frustration and Failure: The Scientific Management of Breastfeeding
Chapter 3. andldquo;Motherhood Raised to the nth Degreeandrdquo;: Breastfeeding in the Postwar Years
Chapter 4. Maternal Expectations: New Mothers, Nurses, and Breastfeeding
Chapter 5. Our Bodies, Our Nature: Breastfeeding, the Environment, and Feminism
Chapter 6. Womanandrsquo;s Right, Motherandrsquo;s Milk: The Nature and Technology of Breast Milk Feeding
Epilogue. Natural Motherhood Redux