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Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and…

Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution (1976)

by Adrienne Rich

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605524,395 (4.03)13



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Showing 5 of 5
A certain president elect should probably read this, along with everyone else of course. ( )
  rastamandj | Jun 14, 2017 |
Stunning work. It raged into the world with a horrible and beautiful truth. I read it first as I was nursing my firstborn, in the 70's. Fearful territory. She may have been the first to look with clarity at the ambivalence of motherhood, coming from her own perspective as a good mother and wife of the 1950's, bearing three sons in something like 6 years, plunging into the roughening waters of feminist consciousness, coming out as a lesbian. As to the last, I have always cherished her retort to the interviewer who asked what her sons thought of her lesbianism. Said Adrienne "well, I guess you'll have to ask them". ( )
  jarvenpa | Mar 31, 2013 |
This book is a classic that needs to be understood within the context of the time it was written. Yes, things have changed--duh. One reason women are living different lives in 2010 than they were in 1970 is because of people like Adrienne Rich. "We stand on the shoulders of giants"--of those who came before us. ( )
  labwriter | Apr 2, 2010 |
This book was a lot more compelling and interesting than I thought it was going to be. I particularly enjoyed the sections on ancient women-centered societies and the medicalization of childbirth. ( )
  lemontwist | Mar 20, 2010 |
It can sometimes be jarring to read books dating back 30 years or more written by feminists (radical or otherwise); although we still have a long way to go, times have indeed changed. And there were moments of this in "Of Woman Born" - Rich's description of how the wives of academic husbands behaved and felt didn't ring true to someone of my generation. But I also know that that very scene is still true for many women today, just not usually those in that demographic; and we forget this at our peril.

This book is a sociological analysis of motherhood - the institution - an examination across several cultures (though mostly those leading to American), invoking myth, psychology, feminist theory, Marxism and more. At times, Rich's anger was uncomfortable - I don't feel it in the same way myself. But mostly, it was galvanizing. I came out of the book realizing how very much the institution is culturally determined and how much it would be possible to change - and how much better we would all be if we did change it. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to think about parenthood, of either sex, or to understand the role of parenthood and mothering in our culture. If you are honest, it will make you uncomfortable - but I think that's a good thing. ( )
1 vote freddlerabbit | Feb 21, 2010 |
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... ma per trattar del ben ch'i vi trovai,
diro dell' altre cose, ch'io v'ho scorte.

... but to treat of the good that I found there,
I will tell of other things I there discerned.)

- Dante, Inferno, 1:3
To my grandmothers Mary Gravely Hattie Rice whose lives I begin to imagine.

I dedicate this Tenth Anniversary edition to the activists working to free women's bodies from archaic and unnecessary bonds
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All human life on the planet is born of woman.
Women, upon whom most of the burden of respect for life has been placed [i.e. the anti-choice movement], know that it is not [true throughout history that we have valued life above all]. We know too much at firsthand about the violence of the warrior, the rapist, the institutional violence of political and social systems in which we have little part, but which affect our bodies, our children, our aging parents: the violence which over centuries we have been told is the way of the world, but which we exist to mitigate and assuage.

In learning to give care to children, men would have to cease being children; the privileges of fatherhood could not be toyed with, as they now are, without an equal share in the full experience of nurture.
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