Imperialism and Motherhood

TitleImperialism and Motherhood
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1978
AuthorsDavin, Anna
JournalHistory Workshop

Because of the declining birth rate motherhood had to be made to seem desirable; because high infant mortality was explained by maternal inadequacy the standards of mothers must be improved. A powerful ideology of motherhood emerged in relation to these problems in the early 20th century... Motherhood was to be given new dignity: it was the duty and destiny of women to be the 'mothers of the race', but also their great reward. But just as it was the individual mother's duty and reward to rear healthy members of an imperial race, so it was her individual ignorance and neglect which must account for infant deaths or sick children... The authority of state over individual, of professional over working class, of male over female, were all involved in the redefining of motherhood in this period, and in ensuring that the mothers of the race would be carefully guided, not carried away by self-importance.  [Author]

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