Myths of Motherhood: How Culture Reinvents the Good Mother

Myths of Motherhood: How Culture Reinvents the Good Mother


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Myths of Motherhood: How Culture Reinvents the Good Mother by Sherry Thurer, Shari L. Thurer

This groundbreaking and irreverent history of motherhood is worth a hundred advice books for any mother who’s ever been made to feel guilty or frazzled by society’s impossible expectations. Analyzing data from the psychoanalyst’s couch to the hidden history of wet nursing, psychologist Shari L. Thurer wends her way from the Stone Age to the age of Hillary Rodham Clinton, painting a vivid, often frightening picture of life for mothers and children in a time when their roles were constructed by men. Along the way, she debunks myth after myth—exposing the not-so-golden ages of Classical Greece and the Italian Renaissance, and revealing the pervasive ideal of Dr. Spock’s selfless, stay-at-home mother as the historical aberration it actually was. A work of impassioned scholarship and astonishing range, The Myths of Motherhood does nothing less than recast our conception of good mothering.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780140246834
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/28/1995
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 416
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Shari L. Thurer is a professor at Boston University and a psychoanalytically trained psychologist with a private practice. She has published widely in scholarly journals on the concept of the good mother. She lives with her husband and daughter in Boston.

Table of Contents


1. Mothering - The Old-Fashioned Way
What Becomes a Legend Most?
Cavemother: Old Stone Age Mom
The Divine Womb: New Stone Age Mom

2. History Begins, Herstory Ends
The Decline and Fall of the Great Mother
The Cradle in the Cradle: Sumerian Mom
Honored Tombs, Honored Wombs: Ancient Egyptian Mom
The Abyss: Phoenician Mom
A Mother Love Story: Ancient Hebrew Mom

3. The Sublime and the Ridiculous: Classical Mom
The Secret History
Sexual Politics in Ancient Greece
Where's Momma? Maternal Images
She Loved Them, She Loved Them Not: Maternal Reality

4. Sacred and Profane Callings: Medieval Mom
Madonna Fever, the Original Version
Does She Love Me?
Medieval Mixed Messages
Devil or Angel: Images of the Child
Mother Superior, Mother Inferior: Maternal Images
Facts of Life: Maternal Reality

5. Father Knows Best: Early Modern Mom
The Obedient Mom: 1500-1700
Down and Out: Maternal Images
Sparing the Rod: Maternal Reality

6. The Exaltation of Mother: Eighteenth-and Nineteenth-Century Mom
From Devil's Consort to "Angel of the House"
The Romantic Tableau: Maternal Images in the Eighteenth Century
The Calm Before the Repressive Storm: Maternal Reality in the Eighteenth Century
Upstairs, Downstairs: Maternal Images in the Nineteenth Century
The Repressive Storm: Maternal Reality in the Nineteenth Century

7. Fall from Grace: Twentieth-Century Mom
Scientific Mom: 1900-1940
Empathic Mom: 1940-1980
Reinventing the Myth: 1980-1990s


What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“A refreshing, eye-opening look at the history of motherhood.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“A comprehensive treatment of motherhood has been long overdue, and this fits the bill, in spades.”
—Susan Brownmiller, author of Against Our Will and Femininity

‘A positive, sensible, and readable history directed to women in the throes of the experience . . . designed to reinforce Ms. Thurer’s assertion that the modern mother cannot possibly do worse than her predecessors.”
—The New York Times Book Review

“A history from the point of view of mothers and children is a rarity. And this one is rich, far-reaching, and fierce, as well as clever and accessible. From the Ancient Goddess to the Holy Virgin to the Devouring Mother to the Doctor Spock mother and now the Activist Mother, we discover, despite the myths, that she was the childbearer and rearer and was usually good enough not to have suffered the slings and arrows of misogyny.”
—E. M. Broner, author of A Weave of Women and The Telling

“Psychologist Shari L. Thurer unmasks the mythmakers . . . but [her] own advice is the most sound. The only good mother is a woman content with herself. So let’s throw out our unattainable ideals about mothering and worry first about the status of women!”
—Ellen Chesler, author of Women of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America

The Myths of Motherhood is an across-the-board, much-needed tribute to the well-being of the at-home mother that looks honestly at her frustrations, concerns and joys.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“A fascinating history of 30,000 years of mothering.”
New Woman

“Anyone interested in societal attitudes toward Mom, Dad and the kids, from the Stone Age on, will be fascinated.”
The Seattle Times

“Thurer effectively demonstrates how transient any one view of mothering is.”
Kirkus Reviews

“An enjoyable and highly informative account of the mostly lamentable fate of the institution of American motherhood . . . intriguing and consciousness raising.”
—Sophie Freud, MSW, Ph.D. author of My Three Mothers & Other Passions

“Shari Thurer gives us a deeply satisfying book. While the information in it excites the brain, the insights soothe at the heart. I am giving copies of this book to my children, my parents, my students, my friends, and, in ultimate affirmation, myself.”
—Faye J. Crosby, author of Juggling: The Unexpected Advantages of Balancing Career and Home for Women and Their Families

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