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Title: Untenanted lives : involuntary childlessness in nineteenth-century America
Author: Chaffe, Morwenna
ISNI:       0000 0004 6059 9393
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2017
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As the expectation for married women to become mothers took on a new importance in nineteenth-century America, the relationship between mother and child was constantly exalted not only in the abundance of prescriptive literature, but also by the medical profession. The discourses of true womanhood and motherhood expressed by physicians and social commentators dictated much of the culturally condoned behaviour and everyday life of middleclass women. This thesis asks how involuntarily childless women embodied their roles in society as the ideal of true womanhood became so strongly characterised by motherhood. Through an interdisciplinary methodology that combines the analysis of archival sources with readings of fictional texts, memoirs and biographies, embedded within histories of a variety of social phenomena – nineteenth-century gynaecology, invalidism, mourning, adoption, and divorce – this thesis provides a socio-cultural analysis of gender and intimacy in late nineteenth-century America. It also examines the various means by which childless women filled their lives, carving out alternative means of existence in a socially prescribed environment of parenthood. The involuntarily childless women considered in this thesis found ways to tenant their lives in the absence of longed-for children. From theatrical performance to adoption, education to art, and from the strengthening of marital relations to their demise, this thesis explores the actions these women took in their marriages to negotiate their identities as childless individuals in a culture of motherhood.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available