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Maternal Power/Powerlessness

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

Maternal power fluctuates synchronically and diachronically. For example, in the latter part of the 19th and early 20th centuries, motherhood was respected and mothers were trusted to understand and practice the latest scientific ideas beneficial to their children. As the century progressed, both the mother's knowledge and her intellectual ability were discounted. Mothers were viewed as needing to be told how to mother their children by experts, who were deemed to be the holders of such knowledge. Knowledge is a source of power, so this belief undermined the power of the mother. However, the concept of power itself is contested. There is no agreed definition of power or of all the forms it takes. Here, maternal power is defined broadly as the ability to ...

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