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Advice Literature for Mothers

  • By: Kristin G. Esterberg
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

Advice literature for mothers includes books, magazine articles, newsletters, pamphlets, Websites, and other popular literature, typically written by professionals, aimed at instructing mothers in the care of children. In traditional societies, parenting advice is spread informally, passing through family and community networks. As literacy and geographic mobility spread, along with declines in the number of children per mother, advice literature became more popular in the United States through the 1800s.

Prior to the early 19th century, little advice literature was aimed specifically at mothers, as fathers—in their role as patriarchs—were seen as ultimately responsible for the education and moral upbringing of their children. Men were seen as possessing reason and authority, qualities women were considered lacking; thus, men were the natural audience for advice literature. Seventeenth-century ...

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