From the early days of second-wave feminism, motherhood and the quest for women's liberation have been inextricably linked. And yet motherhood has at times been viewed, by anti-feminists and select feminists alike, as somehow at odds with feminism. In reality, feminists have long treated motherhood as an organizing metaphor for women's needs and advancement. The mother has been regarded with suspicion at times, deified at others, but never ignored.
The first book devoted to this complex relationship, Motherhood Reconceived examines in depth how the realities of motherhood have influenced feminist thought. Bringing to life the work of a variety of feminist writers and theorists, among them Jane Alpert, Mary Daly, Susan Griffin, Adrienne Rich, and Dorothy Dinnerstein, Umansky situates feminist discourses of motherhood within the social and political contexts of the 1960s. Charting an increasingly favorable view of motherhood among feminists from the late 1960s through the 1980s, Umansky reveals how African American feminists sought to redefine black nationalist discourses of motherhood, a reworking subsequently adopted by white radical and socialist feminists seeking to broaden the racial base of their movement.
Noting the cultural left's conflicted relationship to feminism, that is, the concurrent demand for individual sexual liberation and the desire for community, Umansky traces that legacy through various stages of feminist concern about motherhood: early critiques of the nuclear family, tempered by strong support for day care; an endorsement of natural childbirth by the women's health movement of the early 1970s; white feminists' attempt to forge a multiracial movement by declaring motherhood a universal bond; and the emergence of psychoanalytic feminism, ecofeminism, spiritual feminism, and the feminist anti- pornography movement.