From Motherhood to Mothering

The Legacy of Adrienne Rich's Of Woman Born

Edited by Andrea O'Reilly

Subjects: Women's Studies, Feminist, Cultural Studies
Paperback : 9780791462881, 262 pages, October 2004
Hardcover : 9780791462874, 262 pages, October 2004

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Table of contents


Andrea O'Reilly

PART ONE: Motherhood as Institution: Patriarchal Power and Maternal Outrage

1. The Supreme Court of Canada and What It Means to Be "Of Woman Born"
Diana Ginn

2. Of Party-State Born: Motherhood, Reproductive Politics, and the Chinese Nation-State
Sarah E. Stevens

3. Murderous Mothers: Adrienne Rich's Of Woman Born and Toni Morrison's Beloved
Emily Jeremiah

PART TWO: Mothering as Experience: Empowerment and Resistance

4. "We Have Mama but No Papa": Motherhood in Women-Centered Societies
Maria-Barbara Watson-Franke

5. Mother as Transformer: Strategic Symbols of Matrilineage Recuperation in Princess Pocahontas and the Blue Spots
Dannabang Kuwabong

6. Of Woman (but Not Man or the Nuclear Family) Born: Motherhood Outside Institutionalized Heterosexuality
Kate McCullough

7. Feminist Mothers: Successfully Negotiating the Tension between Motherhood as "Institution" and "Experience"
Fiona Joy Green

8. Immortality and Morality in Contemporary Reworkings of the Demeter/Persephone Myth
Karin Voth Harman

9. Mothering against Motherhood and the Possibility of Empowered Maternity for Mothers and Their Children
Andrea O'Reilly

10. The Broken Shovel: Looking Back from Postmaternity at Co-Parenting
Margaret Morganroth Gullette

PART THREE: Narrating Maternity: Writing as a Mother

11. Adrienne Rich's "Clearing in the Imagination": Of Woman Born as Literary Criticism
D'Arcy Randall

12. A "Sense of Drift": Adrienne Rich's Emergence from Mother to Poet
Jeannette E. Riley

13. Beginning with "I": The Legacy of Adrienne Rich's Of Woman Born
Ann Keniston

List of Contributors


Explores how Rich's work has influenced feminist scholarship on motherhood.


In the years since the publication of Adrienne Rich's Of Woman Born, the topic of motherhood has emerged as a central issue in feminist scholarship. Arguably still the best feminist book on mothering and motherhood, Of Woman Born is not only a wide-ranging, far-reaching meditation on the meaning and experience of motherhood that draws from the disciplines of anthropology, feminist theory, psychology, and literature, but it also narrates Rich's personal reflections on her experiences of mothering. Andrea O'Reilly gathers feminist scholars from diverse disciplines such as literature, women's studies, law, sociology, anthropology, creative writing, and critical theory and examines how Of Woman Born has informed and influenced the way feminist scholarship "thinks and talks" about motherhood. The contributors explore the many ways in which Rich provides the analytical tools to study and report upon the meaning and experience of motherhood.

Andrea O'Reilly is Associate Professor in the School of Women's Studies at York University and Director of the Association for Research on Mothering. She is the author and editor of several books on mothering, including Toni Morrison and Motherhood: A Politics of the Heart, also published by SUNY Press; Mothers and Sons: Feminism, Masculinity, and the Struggle to Raise Our Sons; and Mother Outlaws: Theories and Practices of Empowered Mothering.


"This book is a thought-provoking array of disparate though wide-ranging essays. " — Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering

"…the essays are diverse in discipline and tone. " — University of Toronto Quarterly

"I can hardly imagine a more relevant or more universal subject. O'Reilly examines not only how Rich's book changed scholars' views of motherhood, but also how it changed their voices—adding a chorus of personal insight to their professional and academic research findings. " — Mary Kay Blakely, author of American Mom: Motherhood, Politics, and Humble Pie