Mothers and daughters in nineteenth-century America: the biosocial construction of femininity

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University Press of Kentucky, 1996 - Family & Relationships - 226 pages
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The feminine script of the early nineteenth century centered on women's role as patient, long-suffering mothers. By mid-century, however, their daughters faced a world very different in social and economic options and in the physical experiences surrounding their bodies. In this groundbreaking study, Nancy Theriot turns to social and medical history, developmental psychology and feminist theory to explain the fundamental shift in women's concepts of femininity and gender identity during the course of the century - from an ideal of suffering womanhood to emphasis on female control of the physical self.
Theriot argues that social psychological theories, recent work in literary criticism, and new philosophical work on subjectivities provide helpful lenses for viewing mothers and children and for connecting socioeconomic change and ideological change. Within this methodological perspective, she reads medical texts and woman-authored advice literature and autobiographies, relating the early nineteenth-century notion of "true womanhood" to the socioeconomic and somatic realities of middle-class women's lives, particularly to their experience of the new male obstetrics.

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Contents

Imperial Motherhood and Its Material Roots
17
The Physical Roots of Ideology
40
Acculturation into True Womanhood
62
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About the author (1996)

Nancy Theriot is associate professor of history and chair of the women's studies program at the University of Louisville.