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Feminist Theory and Mothering

  • By: Amber E. Kinser
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, assumptions about women's innate maternal capacity went relatively unchallenged, as did assumptions about the relationship between identity and motherhood, societal structures that impeded or facilitated mothers' self-determination as mothers, and the relationships between race and class bias and the variable value of motherwork. In the 1970s, Jessie Bernard's discussions of motherhood as a social institution rather than merely biological fact in her The Future of Motherhood, then Adrienne Rich's distinction between the patriarchal institution of motherhood and the women-centered experience of mothering in her influential work Of Woman Born, helped to direct feminist critical analyses into issues related to motherhood specifically.

In particular, it helped feminism to consider ways that mothering can function as both oppressive and emancipatory, and ...

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