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History of Motherhood: Ancient Civilizations

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

Marriage and motherhood became key social, cultural, and religious roles for women in the ancient world as pivotal civilizations arose. The development of clan and family units and the acquisition of property meant the need for procreation for economic reasons as well as to continue the family line. The dominance of religion in ancient peoples' understanding of their world and the worship of mother goddesses intertwined pregnancy, childbirth, and child-rearing experiences with superstitious, magical, and religious practices. Most women held an inferior position within ancient families and societies, but Ancient Egypt stood out as an exception, with its more egalitarian approach to marriage and family life.

The production of agricultural surpluses was a key prerequisite for the emergence of civilization, and ancient civilizations remained largely agricultural. ...

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