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History of Motherhood: 1900 to Present

  • By: Marie Porter
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

The salient feature of motherhood in the 20th century is the many social and cultural changes that occurred in ideas about motherhood and the subsequent changes in the mother's status.

The most significant and enduring link to the cultural context is the expectation that a mother will be married. However, major worldwide events altered the perceptions of ideal motherhood, including wars such as World War I, the Russian Revolution, the Great Depression, World War II, and the cold war between the Soviet Union and the West; and the rise of science, particularly in relation to medicine and its role in concerns of child welfare. Social changes also occurred from and through the feminist movement.

Motherhood before World War I

In the early phase of the 1900s, motherhood held ...

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