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History of Motherhood: American

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

The history of motherhood in America and the history of American motherhood are not one and the same. The former refers the history of actual mothers, and to the myriad cultural beliefs and varying material conditions that have shaped their experiences. The latter is an ideological construct closely linked to the emergence and development of the nation state—a construct that has often served to reinforce patterns of hierarchy and exclusion within the broader society. While it is relatively easy to identify how American motherhood has evolved over time, it more difficult to determine how such images and messages have affected mothers and shaped their maternal practices. What is clear, however, is that the role of motherhood has changed radically as American women have gained greater ...

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