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Motherhood Poets

  • By: D'Arcy Clare Randall
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

The Anglo-American literary canon has long featured poetry about motherhood, and women poets have written, if not published, of children and maternal experiences since antiquity. Nevertheless, motherhood poets did not form a discernible literary tradition until the late 20th century. Typical obstacles faced by women poets were increased by the risks of childbirth and responsibilities of childrearing. In addition, 19th- to mid-20th-century patriarchal ideologies of motherhood constrained literary expressions of mothering.

Pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding were considered physical events best kept out of public view and literature. Miscarriage was a private grief; abortion an unmentionable disgrace. Strict conventions and laws governed mother-child relationships. Partly because of these limitations, some second wave feminist leaders of the mid-20th century harbored ambivalence, if not hostility, toward motherhood. Yet, ...

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