Pub. Date:
Rutgers University Press
Medicalized Motherhood: Perspectives from the Lives of African-American and Jewish Women / Edition 1

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

by Jacqueline S. Litt


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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 the women, was a site where they were produced.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813527826
Publisher: Rutgers University Press
Publication date: 03/28/2000
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

Table of Contents

Chapter 1Scientific Motherhood21
Part IEncountering Medicine, Constructing Motherhood
Chapter 2"I Was a Modern Mother": Americanization and Jewish Women's Medicalization43
Chapter 3"My Mother Was with Me All the Time": The Southern Context of African-American Women's Medicalization63
Part IIWomen's Networks, Divided Motherhood, and the Legitimation of Medical Authority
Chapter 4"The Doctor Was Just Like One of Us": Insiders, Outsiders, and Jewish Women's Medicalized Mothering93
Chapter 5"We Tried to Work with Our People": African-American Upper-Middle-Class Networks and the Making of Medicalized Motherhood115
Chapter 6"I Don't Know Any Doctors": Contradictions in Poor and Working-Class African-American Mothers' Medicalization133
AppendixBiographical Profiles163

What People are Saying About This

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.

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. -

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