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Mother Outlaws (Rich)

  • By: D. Lynn O'Brien Hallstein
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

The idea of mother outlaws was developed in response to Adrienne Rich's call for a theory and practice of outlaw mothering in her 1976 text, Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution. Describing a Vermont vacation she took with her sons and without her then husband, Rich argues that she rebels against motherhood by refusing to follow all the rules for schedules, naps, and bedtime during the vacation and, by doing so, she realizes what living with children could entail.

In short, Rich writes that she and her sons “were conspirators, outlaws from the institution of motherhood; I felt enormously in charge of my life.” This moment, however, was short lived because, as Rich also argues, the institution “closed down on us again, and my ...

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