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The Myths of Motherhood

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  62 ratings  ·  10 reviews
Given a voice, what would the Great Goddess, the Virgin Mary, Snow White's evil stepmother, or Portnoy's mom have said about child care, contraception, bonding, or breast-feeding? Would their feelings have mattered? After all, maternity has been constructed by men over the millennia. Aristotle thought mother's womb merely cooked father's seed. The Church preferred virgins ...more
Hardcover, 381 pages
Published May 6th 1994 by Houghton Mifflin
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The image of mother at home, tending to the needs of her family, so popularized by sitcoms in the 1950s and 1960s, is actually a cultural anomaly. As Shari L. Thurer points out in The Myths of Motherhood: How Culture Reinvents the Good Mother (1994) the “fifties were an aberration” (250). Rather than being the norm, the nuclear family depicted by television families such as the Cleavers, the Nelsons, the Reeds et al, reflect a family model that existed for a very short time (the 1950s and early ...more
Abbi Dion
"The new emphasis on the joys of domesticity were not yet strangulating, as they would become for some women in the next hundred years, but in the meantime served as anew source of female authority. At this time, a mother's obligations to instruct the young provided her with a platform to express her ideas on a broad range of subjects. Armed with such a duty, she could give advice, teach morals, even proselytize a captive audience." (Thurer, 197, "The Exaltation of Mother: 18th- and 19th-Century ...more
Although this book was written 20 years ago, it still makes some good points on how our perception of the role of motherhood (and fatherhood) are culturally constructed to a good extent.
I wish the author had looked more at other cultures, rather than sticking to mostly Western European and American ones (over a large span of history, but still). However, she does mention in the acknowledgements that she did not feel like she was qualified to discuss motherhood of other cultures.
Fiona Endsley
This book is a bit dated when it comes to mentions of current events, it was published in 1994, but it none the less offers a refreshing take on the cultural assumptions and ideological problems sorrounding modern motherhood by taking a look at how we got here. Starting in antiquity, and continuing through the 20th century, this brief(and often heartbreaking)tour of western history makes a commonsensical idea clear- that the more society values women, the greater importance it will assign that w ...more
Yuliya Yurchuk
Цікава книжка, в якій розвіюється міф за міфом про "ідеальну маму", варто прочитати її замість сотні книжок про "методи виховання", тому що усі ці "методи" мають свої історії і продукуються своїми контекстами, які найчастіше відтворюють патріархальні відносини у суспільстві. Спробуйте подумати про маму з позиції мами, а не дитини чи сустпільства! Важко? Насправді дуже важко, адже ми не звикли бачити маму з її перспективи, так само як і вона не звикла бачити себе з власної перспективи, а коли вон ...more
This book is intense although I found some of the premises to be a little thin. It's a harsh read going through history and reading over and over the brutality that has been brought on children as well as women - quite horrifying sometimes. The only way I could really get through those parts is to just really disassociate myself from history - as if I was reading about an alien culture. I am glad I read it - it certainly gives context for where we are today but I don't really buy into the idea t ...more
This was a nice complement to "Of Woman Born." While that book was a bit more angry at patriarchy, this book is more factual, less emotional. It presents an interesting, easy history of how western society has reinvented its ideology of motherhood/woman's role over the centuries. Relates it to Christian images of Mary/the Madonna and also to the Industrial Revolution.

Women interested in this subject matter would be well served to read both these books. Together they present a nicely balanced vi
G (galen)
An interesting book to read while pregnant (which I did). But even if you’re not, or never will be, it is worth it. The book is an impressive (and often horrific) historical look at motherhood (and the social/religious rhetoric surrounding it) from the ancient world to today.
It’s a good book to read in conjunction with Yalom’s A History of the Wife… and you might as well through in Wolfe’s Misconception too for some interesting intersections about what society likes to say about how to be a goo
Andrea Paterson
Not so much a book about motherhood as it is a book about family dynamics, childhood, and historical constructions of femininity. A fascinating read that starts to tease apart the foundations of some of our deepest rooted myths and symbols surrounding mothers. One thing is for certain--if mothers still have it rough at least a large number of kids are better off than they used to be. This is a rough read in terms of facing a long history of infanticide, exposure, and infant abandonment.
G.C. Nash
Not rating as I only read a specific portion for research purposes, but I thought Thurer gave an interesting overview of Medieval motherhood, intersecting psychology and religion to explain history.
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