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Bernard, Jessie

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

Jessie Bernard (1903–96) was an American sociologist whose pioneering work inspired the feminist movement of the mid-1960s and challenged the false aura of romanticism in which she considered motherhood to be enshrined, pointing out what she called its “hidden underside.” In her seminal study The Future of Motherhood (1975), Bernard encouraged women “to fight those aspects of our society that make childbearing and child rearing stressful rather than fulfilling experiences.”

Bernard was born Jessie Shirley Ravitch on June 8, 1903, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the third of four children of Jewish Romanian immigrants David and Bessie Kanter Ravitch. She attended the University of Minnesota, where she earned a B.A. in Sociology in 1923 and an M.A. the following year with a thesis on Changes of Attitudes of ...

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