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Poetry, Mothers in

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

Before the 20th century, mothers in poetry were usually characterized in two opposing ways: as absent or perfect. The vast majority of poets who wrote about mothers during this time did not portray mothers as real women, but rather as symbols of mourning or idealization. It was not until the second half of the 20th century that women's status in society changed to such an extent that mothers themselves were able to write poems about mothers who were both flawed and yet virtuous, both imperfectly human and at the same time connected to larger spiritual realms.

Themes of Mourning or Idealization

The death, or absence, of the mother is one of the central themes of pre-20th-century poetry. One of the earliest poets in the American colonies, Anne ...

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