Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Maternalism Reconsidered

Maternalism Reconsidered: Motherhood, Welfare and Social Policy in the Twentieth Century

Marian van der Klein
Rebecca Jo Plant
Nichole Sanders
Lori R. Weintrob
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 282
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qdfrd
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Maternalism Reconsidered
    Book Description:

    Beginning in the late 19th century, competing ideas about motherhood had a profound impact on the development and implementation of social welfare policies. Calls for programmes aimed at assisting and directing mothers emanated from all quarters of the globe, advanced by states and voluntary organizations, liberals and conservatives, feminists and anti-feminists - a phenomenon that scholars have since termed 'maternalism'. This volume reassesses maternalism by providing critical reflections on prior usages of the concept, and by expanding its meaning to encompass geographical areas, political regimes and cultural concerns that scholars have rarely addressed. From Argentina, Brazil and Mexico City to France, Italy, the Netherlands, the Soviet Ukraine, the United States and Canada, these case studies offer fresh theoretical and historical perspectives within a transnational and comparative framework. As a whole, the volume demonstrates how maternalist ideologies have been employed by state actors, reformers and poor clients, with myriad political and social ramifications.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-467-6
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Chapter 1 Introduction: A New Generation of Scholars on Maternalism
    (pp. 1-21)
    Rebecca Jo Plant and Marian van der Klein

    Today as much as ever, mothers and motherhood are categories to be reckoned with in political debates. In nations across the globe, policymakers and commentators discuss whether mothers should be compensated for the care work they perform; whether women should be offered incentives to prevent population decline, or, alternately, be pressured to slow population growth; whether governments should take special measures to protect women due to their reproductive capacity; and to what extent, if any, mothers tend to voteen bloc. Regardless of the type of governmental regime and the role envisioned for mothers, the language that politicians and bureaucrats...

  4. Chapter 2 Maternalism and Beyond
    (pp. 22-37)
    Sonya Michel

    Since the early 1990s, when the term first made its way on to the academic scene, the scholarship of ‘maternalism’ has burgeoned exponentially. Using ‘maternalism’ as a keyword on WorldCat recently, I came up with dozens of articles and books dealing with maternalism in a variety of contexts, both geographical and chronological, and ranging across many disciplines, including history, of course, but also sociology, political science, literature and even chemistry.¹

    Needless to say, this scholarship – along with the essays in this volume – is hardly of one mind when it comes to the subject of maternalism, whether as historical movement, historiographical...

  5. Chapter 3 The State, the Women’s Movement and Maternity Insurance, 1900–1930: A Dutch Maternalism?
    (pp. 38-59)
    Marian van der Klein

    The Netherlands is internationally known as a country where the participation of women in the labour market was rather low prior to 1970.¹ Until well into the twentieth century, roughly one-quarter of the registered workforce was female, and about one-quarter of all adult women were registered as performing paid labour. In the course of the twentieth century, Dutch society became increasingly geared to male breadwinners.² Both before and after World War II, confessional governments, Protestants and Catholics, whose breadwinner principles were supported by the Social Democrats, attempted to ban women from the labour market and to encourage them to serve...

  6. Chapter 4 Mobilizing Mothers in the Nation’s Service: Civic Culture in France’s Familial Welfare State, 1890–1914
    (pp. 60-81)
    Lori R. Weintrob

    In his 1903 playMaternité, French socialist playwright Eugène Brieux mocked the politicians and businessmen who, despite their preoccupation with the national decline in fertility, ignored the economic problems of female citizens.² To curry political favour, the sub-prefect Brignac hastily pledges in one scene to enact the Minister’s proposal ‘to see the whole of France covered with associations having the increase of the population for their object’. Yet, as an embodiment of official and bourgeois hypocrisy, Brignac pitilessly drives from his home a pregnant servant and even his wife’s younger sister, both seduced and abandoned because they had no dowry....

  7. Chapter 5 Speaking on Behalf of Others: Dutch Social Workers and the Problem of Maternalist Condescension
    (pp. 82-98)
    Berteke Waaldijk

    This essay analyses the origins of professional social work in the Netherlands in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. My main argument is that the concept of maternalism is a useful category for understanding the ambiguities within the connected histories of the origins of social policies and of women’s struggles for full citizenship. I will use the distinction between social, political and civil rights to analyse some of the ambivalence contained in the new professional discourse. Social workers tried to speak on behalf of others and, in so doing, combined condescension and respect in a way that deserves the...

  8. Chapter 6 ‘Respectable Citizens of Canada’: Gender, Maternalism and the Welfare State in the Great Depression
    (pp. 99-120)
    Lara Campbell

    This speech gained Mrs William Wilkinson of North York, Ontario, some notoriety during a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister R.B. Bennett in August 1932. The only female delegate at the communist-sponsored Workers’ Economic Conference, Wilkinson reportedly criticized Bennett’s employment policy and pounded his desk when he disagreed with her. One Toronto newspaper, theDaily Star, sympathetically portrayed her as a strong, working-class woman, whose militancy was an extension of her maternal role. ‘It’s a far cry from a little home in North York to the chambers of the highest executive in the land,’ claimed the newspaper. ‘But foremost in her...

  9. Chapter 7 The Gold Star Mothers Pilgrimages: Patriotic Maternalists and Their Critics in Interwar America
    (pp. 121-147)
    Rebecca Jo Plant

    Scholars typically view the late 1920s as marking the decline of maternalist politics in the United States, but this interpretation obscures both the persistence of maternalism in the interwar period and the various reasons why different groups of Americans came to revile it.¹ In fact, maternalism – loosely defined as the belief that motherhood represented a civic role that entitled women to make claims upon the state – remained a powerful force in American political culture, but one that was increasingly appropriated by patriotic and right-wing women’s groups. As progressive women struggled to reposition themselves within a post-suffrage context and politically conservative...

  10. Chapter 8 Protecting Mothers in Order to Protect Children: Maternalism and the 1935 Pan-American Child Congress
    (pp. 148-167)
    Nichole Sanders

    In 1935 the president of the Public Welfare Directorate, Dr Enrique Hernández Alvarez, dedicated Romulo Velasco Ceballos’ workThe Mexican Child Before Charity and the Stateto the Pan-American Child Congress, convened that year in Mexico City.¹ This was a proud moment for Mexican reformers like Velasco and Hernández, who hoped that Mexican programmes could serve as a model for other countries. According to U.S. reformer Katherine Lenroot, Mexico was selected to host the Congress because it was a country ‘that has done so much to protect children, that has conserved its Spanish heritage while overcoming its indigenous roots’ and...

  11. Chapter 9 Maternal and Child Welfare, State Policy and Women’s Philanthropic Activities in Brazil, 1930–45
    (pp. 168-189)
    Maria Lúcia Mott

    During the past three decades, Brazilian and North American authors have produced more than a dozen historical works on the political participation of women in Brazil between the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. The majority of these studies use feminist or modernization theory as a lens to understand women’s political participation. Unfortunately, these approaches have resulted in a biased view of women’s activities, especially in regard to their participation in philanthropic organizations. This bias is also seen in studies of women’s involvement in the Brazilian feminist and labour movements.

    Historians have acknowledged middle-class...

  12. Chapter 10 Maternalism in a Paternalist State: The National Organization for the Protection of Motherhood and Infancy in Fascist Italy
    (pp. 190-204)
    Elisabetta Vezzosi

    In Italy, the fascist state attempted – through activities carried out by women’s fascist party groups and the National Organization for the Protection of Motherhood and Infancy (Opera Nazionale per la Protezione della Maternità e dell’Infanzia, ONMI) – to bring motherhood and women’s caretaking duties into the domain of the state, thereby transforming a common social practice into an ‘obligation of female citizenship’.¹ This essay demonstrates how Italian women tried to take advantage of the fascist regime’s emphasis on motherhood. In particular, it shows how they combined maternalist and pronatalist policies to obtain social rights as working and non-working mothers, to develop...

  13. Chapter 11 Maternalism, Soviet-Style: The Working ‘Mothers with Many Children’ in Post-war Western Ukraine
    (pp. 205-226)
    Yoshie Mitsuyoshi

    The existing scholarship on maternalism has encouraged the comparative study of the relationship between gender and the welfare state in diverse geographic, cultural and political settings. From its original focus on Western European and North American countries, this scholarship has recently expanded its horizons beyond the traditional borders of the ‘West’. However, until recently these studies have almost completely overlooked the socialist societies of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Maternalism constitutes a very different discourse in a Soviet historical context than in an American or Western European one, where maternalist discourse was intertwined with women’s activism, lobbying groups and...

  14. Chapter 12 The Origins and Transformations of the Infant-Maternity Health and Nutritional Programmes in Argentina
    (pp. 227-243)
    Alma Idiart

    Early twentieth-century governments in Argentina provided welfare for the poor largely through funding female-headed beneficent organizations. Members of groups such as theSociedad de Beneficenciatended to be maternalists, emphasizing the social role mothers played in their children’s lives. Mothers did not merely give birth to their children; they raised and educated them. It was through their pivotal role in the socialization process that many women claimed a political voice. Maternalism as a social and political force in Argentina, however, diminished in strength and importance over the twentieth century. While mothers remain central to welfare programming, their social responsibilities have...

  15. Chapter 13 Afterword: Maternalism Today
    (pp. 244-250)
    Rebecca Jo Plant

    Sociologist Ann Shola Orloff has recently argued that wealthy democracies in Western Europe, North America and the Antipodes are in the midst of a series of ‘farewells to maternalism’. By this, she means that policymaking is shifting decisively away from a model in which mothers were expected to stay home and care for children toward a new model that encourages ‘employment for all’. As she puts it, the ‘explicitly gender-differentiated maternalist logic of politically recognizing, and financially supporting mothers’ care-giving’ has been losing ground to ‘ostensibly gender-neutral notions’ that attempt to foster independence through workplace participation. At the same time,...

  16. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 251-262)
  17. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 263-266)
  18. Index
    (pp. 267-276)