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Social Action and Motherhood

  • By: Tiffany Taylor & Sarah Samblanet
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

Long before Sojourner Truth asked the 1851 Ohio Women's Rights Convention audience “ain't I a woman?” and went on to describe being a mother and a slave, motherhood was central to women's activism. Throughout history, women have used collective beliefs and ideologies about mothers and motherhood in their social action efforts. This includes beliefs that mothers are caring and nurturing, and that they are the natural protectors of children. Mothering has intersected with social action in two ways.

First, through tying mothering explicitly to social movements, such as the Maternalists Movement, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and the National Congress of Mothers. Second, women have emphasized their mother identity to mobilize others. For instance, both Mary Harris “Mother” Jones and Fannie Lou Hamer clearly emphasized their mothering ...

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