"This book is an ambitious, deeply researched, comparative history of how feminists have addressed the 'maternal dilemma'." - European History Quarterly
"How did maternal destiny morph into a "maternal dilemma"? To some 21st century readers, the pairing of feminism and motherhood may seem contradictory. Ann Allen's accomplishment is to dispell that seeming contradiction by unearthing a rich and important series of feminist debates about motherhood, which she then analyzes within a comparative, transnational framework. From the 1880s to 1970, progressive women and men throughout western Europe addressed the benefits and handicaps imposed on women as mothers in male-controlled economies and nation-states. They came up with very radical answers and creative, sometimes conflicting solutions that had the potential to empower mothers independently of husbands and fathers or to establish egalitarian male-female partnerships, in either case seriously threatening the prevailing male legal and economic hegemony. Can one then be surprised that their woman-centered proposals stirred up serious opposition? Can one wonder that, subsequently, their ideas about constructing woman-friendly welfare states became distorted in application, before being threatened (as is the case today) with dismemberment? Allen's book is exceedingly important for understanding the history of European nations precisely because it insists on the centrality of gender and the politics of reproduction to "mainstream" history. It illuminates today's ongoing debates, including those in the United States, about the "dilemma" women still face in trying to combine family and employment within the "clockwork of the male career," as Arlie Hochschild once put it. It likewise provides rich background for understanding the current controversies that swirl around popular novels that resuscitate the "female principle,"such as The Da Vinci Code. To read this book is truly to experience an "Ah Haa!"moment."--Karen Offen, Institute for Research on Women & Gender, Stanford University
"In this outstanding addition to the burgeoning new history of motherhood, Ann Taylor Allen explores the "motherhood dilemmna" faced by modern women, families, and states. Grounded in thorough knowledge of multiple national histories, feminist movements, and intellectual trends, this book is filled with important information and interesting tales that show how women have faced and sought to resolve conflicts between their responsibilities as mothers and as rights-bearing individuals. The history of motherhood belongs as a topic on every syllabus in women's history and cultural studies, and this book shows why."--Marilyn J. Boxer, Professor of History Emerita, former Vice-President of Academic Affairs, San Francisco State University.
“This book is an ambitious, deeply researched, comparative history of how feminists have addressed the ‘maternal dilemma’. The ‘maternal dilemma’ for Ann Taylor Allen comprises the question: ‘Is it possible to be both a mother and an autonomous individual?’ This book is exciting and new because of its wide-ranging sources and broad, comparative focus, which includes England, France, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands and elsewhere. This is a western European history in the fullest sense and it indicates an impressive command of many histories and historiographical questions.”—European History Quarterly