The “momism” critique, a scathing attack on American mothers during World War II and the early Cold War, asserted that the nation's young men lacked the rugged, independent character possessed by their forefathers and necessary to national strength. Popular writers and psychiatric experts blamed pathological moms who “smother-loved” their children, particularly their boys. They viewed the phenomenon as uniquely American, and largely confined to the middle class.

Momism was rooted in a male reaction to the modernization of gender roles. In the early twentieth century, as women entered the competitive realms of paid labor and politics (achieving national suffrage in 1920), men increasingly questioned the Victorian belief in female moral superiority and challenged the assumption that mother love was a wholly benevolent force. Whereas Victorians had ...

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