Of Woman Born: Motherh...
Adrienne Rich
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Of Woman Born: Motherhood As Experienced And Institution

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  959 ratings  ·  46 reviews
'In order for all women to have real choices all along the line, ' Ardrienne Rich writes, 'we need fully to understand the power and powerlessness embodied in motherhood in patriarchal culture.'
Published by Bantam Doubleday Dell (first published October 1st 1976)
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Oct 26, 2007 GeekChick rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: women who want to be defined as more than their reproductive parts, new mothers
Shelves: womens-interests
Rich details how motherhood and childbirth were subjugated as people transitioned from matriarchal or equal societies to patriarchy. She traces how patriarchal systems then drastically lowered women's role and value, and how childbirth was 'stolen' from midwives and turned into a 'medical procedure.'

Rich is clearly angry about all this, and given the era she grew up in, it is understandable. And remember that the book was written in the mid-1970s. Still, the anger only rises to the surface now a...more
I only made it to the half way point in this book. I may finish, but I'm not sure yet. While this book is praised by many feminists, many of whom I have read, I am not loving the tone Rich takes when writing about motherhood. While it shares real expereince, which I appreciate, it also tends to demonize the 'mother.' I was especially put of by a section where she writes that motherhood is essentially a power trip for women and a way to exercise control. As a mother and a woman I take offense to...more
Jun 02, 2007 Simone rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone, of course
This book is an essential read for anyone interested in feminist and or gender related issues. An absolute classic. Here are a few memorable excerpts:

1. "Partiarchy is the power of the fathers: a familial-social, ideological, political system in which men - by force, direct pressure, or through ritual, tradition, law, and language, customs, etiquette, education, and the division of labor, determine what part women shall or shall not play, and in which the female is everywhere subsumed under the...more
Jan 15, 2008 delphiansybil rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the mother/daughter paradigm
Shelves: main
This is an amazing book -- Rich discusses the experience of motherhood and daughterhood from pre-birth to adulthood with exquisite language and emotion. Every mother and daughter, and every daughter who is thinking of becoming a mother should read this book. It is fantastic and really one of the most important feminist books of its time.
Adrienne Rich died today. She had a profound impact on me when this book was published, when I was 26 and not yet thinking about becoming a mother. Her poetry, especially "Diving into the Wreck" and "Dreaming a Common Language" moved me and challenged me.
missy ward-lambert
Fascinating. I love how Rich combines her feminist critique with anecdotes and reflections from her own experiences as a mother. I don't necessarily agree with all of her conclusions (and some of the information is dated, since the book was written in the '70s), but I really related to her language. Rather than dismissing the challenges of motherhood as minor frustrations, Rich really delves into the confusion and identity loss and overpowering sense of inadequacy that many mothers feel. It was...more
With sturdy intelligence and an astute layering of research, personal experience and fresh insight, Adrienne Rich has created a timeless text that even at the beginning of the twenty-first century stands as a fascinating and thought-provoking study of women's challenges in modern societies. The reader is continually drawn into the text and its visceral world of examples from literature, scientific texts and real life testimonies. Throughout the book, I was in constant awe of Ms. Rich's ability...more
Το μόνο που έχω να πω είναι ότι είμαι πολύ χαρούμενη που το βρήκα μεταφρασμένο στα ελληνικά και κατάφερα να το διαβάσω στη γλώσσα μου και να το κατανοήσω καλύτερα. Η Rich, της οποίας το έργο γνώρισα πριν λίγο καιρό στο πανεπιστήμιο, με αυτό το εξαιρετικό έργο της με προβλημάτισε σε σχέση με την μητρότητα αλλά και τον φεμινισμό. Αλλά και γενικότερα για τους ρόλους των γυναικών και των ανθρώπων μέσα στην κοινωνία. Με τη δεύτερη ανάγνωση σίγουρα θα ανακαλύψω περισσότερα!!!!!
Mar 24, 2008 Brenda rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brenda by: Danielle Townsend
Favorite Quotes:

"The most important thing one woman can do for another is to illuminate and expand her sense of actual possibilities."

"But the "motherless" woman may also react by denying her own vulnerability, denying she has felt any loss or absence of mothering. She may spend her life proving her strength in the "mothering" of others - a with Mrs. Ramsay, mothering men, whose weakness makes her feel strong, or mothering in the role of teacher, doctor, political activist, psychotherapist. In a...more
Cara Byrne
I enjoy this book more and more each time I read it. Rich's work is deeply interesting and dynamic, as she explores the institution and the "potential relationship" or experience of motherhood through historical and literary research, as well as talking about her experiences as her mother's daughter and as her three sons' mother. The autobiographical content is raw and poetic and is easily my favorite part of this book. I also appreciate her taking up of Lessing's concept of "matrophobia," explo...more
This is a 2nd wave feminist standard, and it adds fuel to the argument that 3rd wave feminism hasn't added nearly as much to the dialoge as we young gals who don't listen to our elders might think.

The first few chapters focused on the inherently speculative history of ancient societies that might have been women- and specifically mother-centered. While that is interesting (even if it isn't true, it offers visions of ways of viewing motherhood that differ from the modern sentimental view), it wa...more
Sep 01, 2014 Lizzie marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Still combing through the 500 Great Books By Women book list, which got set up as a Goodreads group, and tracking the demographics via spreadsheet (and so can yoouuu).
It is my observation that parenting has become a lot more progressive in regards to fathers equally carrying out the act and title of nurturers within the family unit since the publication of this book in 1976. I do live in a progressive state, so I can only speak from my frame of reference. I strongly feel this piece of literature is a must read for all women, regardless of their intentions of becoming mothers or not... And also for men, who've too commonly been raised in a society where it is...more
Dawn Shanks
Lately I've been reading everything I can find about maternal feminism, a quieter branch of feminism. This is the first second-wave text I'm reading; everything else has been published post-1985 and references, in some way or another, this phenomenal book.

Why is a woman's place in society so ardently outlined up until becoming a mother? Why does "mom" seem like some sort of asexual sub-woman delegation? What happens if you want to experience maternity but aren't resigned to it being the peak ex...more
Molly Westerman
A must-read for feminists interested in the institution of motherhood (and really, as Rich argues, why wouldn't you be, whether or not you intend to parent?) and for parents, birthworkers, and other healthcare providers interested in feminism and/or in mothers' experiences. I went into this book braced to find it painfully dated but (although of course it's of its own time) was pleasantly surprised throughout: it's not just an influential classic of historical interest but a book that continues...more
Stunning work. It raged into the world with a horrible and beautiful truth. I read it first as I was nursing my firstborn, in the 70's. Fearful territory. She may have been the first to look with clarity at the ambivalence of motherhood, coming from her own perspective as a good mother and wife of the 1950's, bearing three sons in something like 6 years, plunging into the roughening waters of feminist consciousness, coming out as a lesbian. As to the last, I have always cherished her retort to t...more
Feb 25, 2014 Janice is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
From bibliography from Providence College Center for Teaching Excellence program on balancing work and family 2/2014
Wow, I loved this book. I can see that Adrienne Rich really took her time to do this book right and I applaud her for it. This was no easy read for me, but I was glad I finished it (ok I lied, I read about 3/4th of the book, but it was overdue at the library). All I have to say about the author is, what a woman. She is incredible and her writing style was easy to follow her ideas/where she was going with the book.I would highly recommend her for both her poetry and non-fiction.
Jan Priddy
This is a well-researched exploration of the psychology of motherhood, and how female biological role as creators has been co-opted, exploited, and perverted by patrimony. I wish I'd read it when it first came out, and I am very glad to have read it now. She is a generous-hearted, creative, and courageous writer. I am familiar with most of her sources, so that made the reading interesting. That she spoke to notions stirring already in my mind, was even more satisfying.
Beautifully written feminist classic on motherhood. Topics range from ancient speculative matriarchal societies and rise of the patriarchy, to the relationships between mothers and children, to the rise of institutionalized childbirth and the fight for control of women's bodies and reproduction. Throughout, Rich weaves emotion and research with personal experience.
Some parts of this book feel a bit dated, but I was impressed by how many parts did not at all. It really shows how questions about what patriarchy serves are still so relevant. The chapters on obstetrics and midwifery are great. Definitely required feminist reading.
2011: Beautiful, wonderful, will be re-read, and I hope I'll find a bit of time to write more here. I feel this is a book I'll need to return to at different stages of motherhood, and I'm so glad I read it for work on manuscript #2.
Kenya Wright
I read this long ago in one of my Feminist Theory courses. It basically changed my life and I believe I was lucky to read this before actually becoming a mother. I have so much less mother's guilt as I pursue my writing career.
I'm a fan of Adrienne Rich's poetry and this seems like a terrific book, if a bit dense and heavier than what I'm used to. It seems well worth reading -- but I wasn't able to renew it. Another time.
This book was a lot more compelling and interesting than I thought it was going to be. I particularly enjoyed the sections on ancient women-centered societies and the medicalization of childbirth.
AJ Conroy
Oct 08, 2011 AJ Conroy marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
No 42 on Ms. Magazine's Top 100 Feminist Non-Fiction Countdown: In this lifechanging classic, the French theorist and poet provides dazzling insight into the meaning of motherhood.
Thought-provoking and radical - a true eye- and mind-opening experience! Embedded itself in my mind and laid the foundation for my work-in-progress poetry collection.
Jan 05, 2009 Anne marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I read some of this in college, and had forgotten about it until now. I'd like to revisit this and see what I think of it now that I'm a mother myself.
Nancy Bryans
I read this book 15 years ago, and it talks about how women's responsibility/duty/institution is to care for children.
Dec 08, 2007 Molly rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Interesting to see what of this 1976 book has become mainstream, what seems dated, and what sadly still seems current.
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Adrienne Rich (b. 1929). Born to a middle-class family, Rich was educated by her parents until she entered public school in the fourth grade. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Radcliffe College in 1951, the same year her first book of poems, A Change of World, appeared. That volume, chosen by W. H. Auden for the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award, and her next, The Diamond Cutters and Other Poems...more
More about Adrienne Rich...
Diving Into the Wreck The Dream of a Common Language The Fact of a Doorframe: Poems Selected and New, 1950-1984 An Atlas of the Difficult World Adrienne Rich's Poetry and Prose

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“Probably there is nothing in human nature more resonant with charges than the flow of energy between two biologically alike bodies, one of which has lain in amniotic bliss inside the other, one of which has labored to give birth to the other. The materials are here for the deepest mutuality and the most painful estrangement.” 73 likes
“There is nothing revolutionary whatsoever about the control of women's bodies by men. The woman's body is the terrain on which patriarchy is erected.” 12 likes
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