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This piece surveys second wave feminist writing about motherhood from Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique to the mostly pronatalist texts of the 1980s, with key stops along the way to discuss turning points like Shulamith Firestone’s Dialectic of Sex, Adrienne Rich’s Of Woman Born, and Sara Ruddick’s Maternal Thinking. In the first (brief) period, feminist writers tried to pry women away from the assumption that they must mother. The second period was a time of exploring women’s actual and complex experience of mothering in the often-hostile environment of patriarchy. The third period, beginning with major anti-feminist backlash and the election of Ronald Reagan, was a time of pronatalism, not only in the US in general, but also inside women’s movements. The piece includes a timeline, year by year, of the feminist books and articles, mostly from the US, which were the basis of this periodization.

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