Centuries of Solace: Expressions of Maternal Grief in Popular Literature

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Since the late 1970s, the grief of women who experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, or the death of an infant has been an increasingly visible topic in mainstream American publications. Wendy Simonds and Barbara Katz Rothman look to nineteenth-century women's magazines and later to confession magazines to explore the antecedents of modern writings on maternal grief and the information they convey about women from each period. This is the first book that analyzes popular consolation literature as it changed over two centuries. The authors include a large selection of the writings they view as social records that recognize and legitimize women's experience. Women's magazines of the last century, such as Godey's Lady's Book and Petersen's, ran numerous poems, stories, and essays in which women writers shared their grief through symbolic language and Christian evangelism. Such expressions brought together middle-class women's views about motherhood and religion, the two most crucial institutions shaping their lives during this time--and the only two within which they could participate without censure. Expressions of maternal grief vanished from mainstream publications as they became increasingly secularized but reappeared in the early twentieth century in True Story, the first "pulp" confessional. Marketed to working-class women, confessional magazines featured "life-is-stranger-than-fiction" stories that usually advised readers that self-blame could best be mitigated by self-sacrificing service. Simonds and Katz Rothman suggest that the numerous letters from readers printed in each issue attest to a community of women trying to help each other through difficult life experiences and may be viewed as a forerunner to later self-help groups. As women gain power in the "public" world, their concerns are more salient in public discussions. Maternal grief is again a valid subject for mass market magazines for women. Modern publications, such as Glamour magazine, urge conte
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780877229315
  • Publisher: Temple University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/1992
  • Series: Health, Society, and Policy Series
  • Pages: 390
  • Product dimensions: 5.94 (w) x 8.55 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Introduction 1
2 The Mother's Lament: Nineteenth-Century Consolation Literature 33
Excerpts from Nineteenth-Century Consolation Literature
To a Gentleman and Lady on the Death of the Lady's Brother and Sister, and a Child of the Name Avis, Aged One Year 76
The Mother's Lament 77
The Bird and Child 79
Stanzas on the Death of Miss Rebecca Ann Marshall 80
The Angel of Death 81
An Infidel Mother 83
At Rest 85
My Child (Lamoreux) 87
My Child (North) 88
This is a Mother's Grief 95
A Mother's Prayer for Her Sick Child 96
Starving 98
The Little Ones 99
A Silent House 101
To an Infant 101
The Baby's Drawer 102
The Wail of the Cornish Mother 104
3 Confessions of Loss: Maternal Grief in True Story 105
Excerpts from True Story
The Children Nobody Wanted 131
The Empty Crib 138
God Sent Me a Miracle 150
4 The Demand for Solace: Contemporary Maternal Consolation Literature 157
Excerpts from Contemporary Consolation Literature
Life and Death 195
I Learned to Live Through a Mother's Greatest Loss 205
The Death of a New Baby 209
When a Baby Dies 214
Making Loving Memories 235
Comfort Us Lord--Our Baby Died 236
My Precious Baby 239
To Forrest 241
Letter from K.S. 242
Infant Death 242
Miscarriage 244
The Lost Children 245
Stillbirth 246
Intensive Care Nursery 248
Giving Away the Layette 249
5 On Maternal Grief and Public Policy 251
Notes 261
Bibliography 265
Index 277
Permissions 287
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