New review: The 21st Century Motherhood Movement

Andrea O’Reilly argues that activist mothers are creating an autonomous and distinct social movement. Adele Jones reviews this first anthology of its kind, which profiles organisations who are all fighting for a shift in the value given to the roles and responsibilities of motherhood


The 21st Century Motherhood Movement weighs in at 957 pages – that’s 81 chapters – and aims to provide, as the blurb states, an “invaluable and comprehensive collection”. I was (somewhat apprehensively) expecting an in-depth analysis of what the motherhood movement is, and how it relates to and negotiates dominant patriarchal discourses; something – given its size and its academic provenance (author and editor Andrea O’Reilly works in the School of Women’s Studies at York University, Toronto) – a bit more theoretical.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the collection is more of a directory, a telephone book of active organisations working in some way with women who are mothers. There are two main reasons I found this pleasing. Firstly, given our government’s sustained attacks on all women, but particularly women who are mothers – in the form of anti-feminist rhetoric, decimation of the welfare benefits system, demonisation of lone parents, who are overwhelmingly women – it’s heartening to see just how many organisations there are in a worldwide context working positively with mothers, and challenging entrenched sexism right up to governmental level (CODEPINK’s tactics are particularly lovely).

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