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Title: Motherhood and protest in the United States since the sixties
Author: Denton, Georgina
ISNI:       0000 0004 5359 8122
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2014
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Focusing on Women Strike for Peace, the welfare rights struggle, the battle against busing and the anti-abortion movement, this thesis highlights the integral role ideologies of motherhood played in shaping women’s activism during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. In doing so, it challenges conventional understandings of maternalism, social protest since the sixties, and second-wave feminism in important ways. Indeed, the activists in this study, most of them mothers, many of them middle-aged, do not fit with popular images of the 1960s – centred, as they often are, on youth protests, student movements and a vibrant, colourful counterculture. Meanwhile, studies of mothers’ movements tend to focus disproportionately on white, middle-class women’s reform work during the early twentieth century, eliding maternalism with progressivism, the politics of respectability and nonviolence. However, by revealing the persistence of this political tradition into the 1960s and beyond, and exploring how motherhood was used by activists across the political spectrum during this turbulent era, this study underscores the flexibility, malleability and lasting appeal of maternalism. Within all of these movements, women shared a belief in motherhood as a mandate to activism and a source of political strength. But, as this thesis will show, they ultimately forged distinctive versions of maternalism that were based on their daily lives, and informed by an intersection of race, ethnicity, class, religion and local context. And as a result, there were important differences in the way these activists understood and deployed motherhood. The women in this study also combined more traditional forms of maternal protest with modes of activism popularised during the 1960s, employing direct action tactics to dramatise their maternal concerns in the public arena. Furthermore, some activists espoused a militant brand of maternalism that did not preclude the use of force if deemed necessary to protect their own or others’ children. Finally, although experiences varied widely, many of the women examined here were influenced by, engaged with, and contributed to the era’s burgeoning feminist movement. Thus, this study challenges the popular assumption that maternalist politics are inherently incompatible with women’s liberation – while also providing a vital reminder that second-wave feminism took multiple forms.
Supervisor: Hall, Simon ; Dossett, Kate Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available