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Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution

Of Woman Born: Motherhood
as Experience and Institution
Adrienne RichWW Norton & Company1976

“In order for all women to have real choices all along the line,” Adrienne Rich writes, “we need fully to understand the power and powerlessness embodied in motherhood in patriarchal culture.” Rich’s investigation, in this influential and landmark book, concerns both experience and institution. The experience is her own – as a woman, a poet, a feminist, and a mother – but it is an experience determined by the institution, imposed in its many variations on all women everywhere. She draws on personal materials, history, research, and literature to create a document of universal importance.

Probably there is nothing in human nature more resonant with charges than the flow of energy between two biologically alike bodies, one of which has lain in amniotic bliss inside the other, one of which has labored to give birth to the other. The materials are here for the deepest mutuality and the most painful estrangement.

Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Anger and Tenderness
Chapter 2: The “Sacred Calling”
Chapter 3: The Kingdom of the Fathers
Chapter 4: The Primacy of the Mother
Chapter 5: The Domestication of Motherhood
Chapter 6: Hands of Flesh, Hands of Iron
Chapter 7: Alienated Labor
Chapter 8: Mother and Son, Woman and Man
Chapter 9: Motherhood and Daughterhood
Chapter 10: Violence: the Heart of Maternal Darkness