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Migrant mothers: gender, ethnicity and migration


This week we focus on motherhood and migration, which involves a diverse range of issues - movements of cultural beliefs, ideologies and practices, and notions of social responsibility and values attached to motherhood. The emphasis will be largely on the United States, exploring the role of immigrant midwives and the expectations of immigrant communities around childbirth and motherhood. This was a particularly fraught area as the twentieth century ‘American midwife debate’ challenged traditional practices and midwife-led births, in a move towards hospital centred, physician led childbirth. Midwives were described as relics of ‘primitive’ practices and ‘un-American’. Yet in reality immigrant communities were reliant – in the absence of other options – on their own midwife practitioners. Work on maternity in the East End of London has also indicated divergent cultural practices and approaches to mothering as well as varied provision of care. This week also examines a very different and much darker aspect of ‘motherhood’: the migration of mothers in search of abortions, across national borders.

Judith Barrett Litoff, The American Midwife Debate (New York, etc: Greenwood Press, 1986) (extracts to be circulated).

Charlotte Borst, Catching Babies: The Professionalization of Childbirth, 1870-1920 (Cambridge, Mass and London: Harvard University Press, 1995).

Euqene R. Declercq, ‘The Nature and Style of Practice of Immigrant Midwives in Early Twentieth Century Massachusetts’, Journal of Social History, 19 (1985), 113-29.

Dianne Vecchio, Merchants, Midwives and Labouring Women: Italian Migrants in Urban America (University of Illinois Press, 2006).

Timothy J. Meagher, ‘“Sweet Good Mothers and Young Women Out in the World”: The Roles of Irish American Women in Late-Nineteenth and Early-Twentieth-Century Worcester, Massachusetts’
Sydney Stahl Weinberg, ‘Jewish Mothers and Immigrant Daughters: Positive and Negative Role Models’
Susan Matoba Adler, ‘Social, Historical, Political, and Cultural Settings of Japenese American Motherhood, 1940-1990: The Tradition of Amae, Gambare and Gaman in the American West’
George J. Sanchez, ‘“Go after the Women”: Americanization and the Mexican Immigrant Woman, 1915-1930’
All in Rima D. Apple and Janet Golden (eds), Mothers and Motherhood: Readings in American History (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 1997).

Lara V. Marks, Model Mothers: Jewish Mothers and Maternity Provision in East London 1870-1939 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994).

Lara Marks, ‘“Dear Old Mother Levy’s”: The Jewish Maternity Home and Sick Room Helps Society, 1895-1939’, Social History of Medicine, 3 (1990), 61-88.

Lara Marks, ‘“The Luckless Waifs and Strays of Humanity”: Irish and Jewish Immigrant Unwed Mothers in London, 1870-1929’, Twentieth Century British History, 3 (1992), 113-37.

Lara Marks and Lisa Hilder, ‘Ethnic Advantage: Infant Survival among Jewish and Bengali Immigrants in East London, 1870-1990’, in Lara Marks and Michael Worboys (eds), Migrants, Minorities and Health: Historical and Contemporary Studies (London and New York: Routledge, 1997), 179-209

Patrick Kennedy and Jo Murphy-Lawless, ‘The Maternity Needs of Refugee and Asylum Seeking Women in Ireland’, Feminist Review, 73 (2003), 39-55.

Lindsey Earner-Bryne, ‘“Moral Repatriation”: The Response to Irish Unmarried Mothers in Britain, 1920s-1960s, in Patrick Duffy (ed.)., To and From Ireland: Planned Migration Schemes c.1600-2000 (Dublin: Geography Publications, 2004), 155-73.

Lindsey Earner-Bryne, ‘The Boat to England: An Analysis of Official Reactions to the Emigration of Single Expectant Irishwomen to Britain, 1922-1972’, Irish Economic and Social History, 30 (2003), 52-70.

Eithne Luibhéid, 'Sexual Regimes and Migration Controls: Reproducing the Irish Nation-state in Transnational Contexts', Feminist Review, 83 (2006, 60-78.

Rebecca Gomperts, 'Women on Waves: Where Next for the Abortion Boat?', Reproductive Health Matters, 10 (2002), 180-83.