Medicalized Motherhood: Perspectives from the Lives of African-American and Jewish Women / Edition 1

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Overview

The 1946 publication of Dr. Benjamin Spock's Baby and Child Care signaled the pervasive influence of expert "medicalized motherhood" in mid-twentieth-century America. Throughout the previous two decades, pediatricians and women's magazines alike advised mothers of the importance of physicians' guidance for the everyday care of their children, and Spock's book popularized this advice, particularly among white, middle-class women.

When Jacquelyn S. Litt interviewed African-American and Jewish women who raised their children in the 1930s and 1940s, she found that these women responded to experts' advice in ways uniquely shaped by their ethnicity, race, and class. For middle-class African-American and Jewish women, medicalization took place in ethnically/racially segregated networks and functioned as a collectively held strategy for social advance as much as a set of technical practices for raising healthy children. For poor, single African-American mothers, everyday networks offered limited access to medical institutions or mainstream norms. Medical discourse was largely controlled by white women and men, which left these women disempowered in medical institutions and marginal to dominant definitions of acceptable mothering.

Litt's book is enriched with many narratives from the mothers themselves. Both the women's voices and her acute sociological research bring to light how medicalized motherhood, while not the single cause of difference and inequality among women, was a site where they were produced.

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What People Are Saying

Barbara Katz Rothman
Barbara Katz Rothman, author of Genetic Maps and Human Imaginations.

Litt has accomplished what so many scholars say we should do, but never quite pull off: She has deeply contextualized the 'universal' experience of mothering. Our understanding of American motherhood is richly expanded by her work. -
Emily K. Abel
Emily K. Abel, author of Hearts of Wisdom: American Women Caring for Kin, 1850-1940.

Though a careful and insightful analysis of the narratives of two groups of mothers, this book makes a major contribution to the literature on women's relationships to expert authority.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813527826
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2000
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 6.05 (w) x 9.07 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
Ch. 1 Scientific Motherhood 21
Pt. I Encountering Medicine, Constructing Motherhood
Ch. 2 "I Was a Modern Mother": Americanization and Jewish Women's Medicalization 43
Ch. 3 "My Mother Was with Me All the Time": The Southern Context of African-American Women's Medicalization 63
Pt. II Women's Networks, Divided Motherhood, and the Legitimation of Medical Authority
Ch. 4 "The Doctor Was Just Like One of Us": Insiders, Outsiders, and Jewish Women's Medicalized Mothering 93
Ch. 5 "We Tried to Work with Our People": African-American Upper-Middle-Class Networks and the Making of Medicalized Motherhood 115
Ch. 6 "I Don't Know Any Doctors": Contradictions in Poor and Working-Class African-American Mothers' Medicalization 133
Conclusion 157
App: Biographical Profiles 163
Notes 167
Bibliography 171
Index 183
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