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Mother Wit

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

Contemporary definitions of mother wit describe it as the innate common sense of mothers, yet the original meaning is more complex. Mother wit is the wisdom women develop based on their lived experiences. It is a type of knowledge that is informed by women's common sense, relationships, informal interactions, and life lessons. Mother wit was first conceptualized as a gendered and culturally relevant form of epistemology. In addition, it signals the intelligence and astuteness that women can have, even if they are not formally educated.

Origins in Slave Mother Wisdom

The term mother wit was first coined by African American folklorists to refer to the wisdom of elder, African American, U.S. women slaves. These women, who were enslaved from approximately 1619 to 1865, were recognized for playing ...

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