Cover image for Motherhood in black and white : race and sex in American liberalism, 1930-1965
Motherhood in black and white : race and sex in American liberalism, 1930-1965
Feldstein, Ruth, 1965-

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Publication Information:
Ithaca, NY : Cornell University Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
ix, 241 p. : ill.


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Book BILKUTUP0285907 HQ759 .F364 2000 Central Campus Library

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The apron-clad, white, stay-at-home mother. Black bus boycotters in Montgomery, Alabama. Ruth Feldstein explains that these two enduring, yet very different, images of the 1950s did not run parallel merely by ironic coincidence, but were in fact intimately connected. What she calls "gender conservatism" and "racial liberalism" intersected in central, yet overlooked, ways in mid-twentieth-century American liberalism.

Motherhood in Black and White analyzes the widespread assumption within liberalism that social problems?ranging from unemployment to racial prejudice?could be traced to bad mothering. This relationship between liberalism and motherhood took shape in the 1930s, expanded in the 1940s and 1950s, and culminated in the 1960s. Even as civil rights moved into the mainstream of an increasingly visible liberal agenda, images of domineering black "matriarchs" and smothering white "moms" proliferated.

Feldstein draws on a wide array of cultural and political events that demonstrate how and why mother-blaming furthered a progressive anti-racist agenda. From the New Deal into the Great Society, bad mothers, black or white, were seen as undermining American citizenship and as preventing improved race relations, while good mothers, responsible for raising physically and psychologically fit future citizens, were held up as a precondition to a strong democracy.

By showing how ideas about gender roles and race relations intersected in films, welfare policies, and civil rights activism, as well as in the assumptions of classic works of social science, Motherhood in Black and White speaks to questions within women's history, African American history, political history, and cultural history. Ruth Feldstein analyzes representations of black women and white women, as well as the political implications of these representations. She brings together race and gender, culture and policy, vividly illuminating each.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Introductionp. 1
1. "The Women Have a Big Part to Play" Citizenship, Motherhood, and Race in New Deal Liberalismp. 12
2. Racism as Un-American Psychology, Masculinity, and Maternal Failure in the 1940sp. 40
3. "Politics in an Age of Anxiety" Cold War Liberalism and Dangers to Americansp. 62
4. "I Wanted the Whole World To See" Constructions of Motherhood in the Death of Emmett Tillp. 86
5. "Imitation" Reconsidered Consuming Images in the Late 1950sp. 111
6. Pathologies and Mystiques Revising Motherhood and Liberalism in the 1960sp. 139
Conclusion: Motherhood, Citizenship, and Political Culturep. 165
Notesp. 171
Selected Bibliographyp. 217
Indexp. 235