‘Mother outlaws’ subject of new book

Andrea O’Reilly, York professor of women’s studies, has edited a major new book called Mother Outlaws: Theories and Practices of Empowered Mothering, to be published this month by Women’s Press. O’Reilly is director of York’s Centre for Research on Mothering, which houses the Association for Research on Mothering (ARM) and the ARM journal.

Left: Andrea O’Reilly

“Mother Outlaws makes an enormously important contribution to women’s studies, a field that tends to neglect the topic of mothering or to present it with such ambivalence that it is a wonder college men and women go on to have families,” says Robbie Pfeufer Kahn, a professor in the Department of Sociology, University of Vermont. “This book provides abundant evidence that there can be such a thing as empowered mothering, thereby instilling optimism in today’s young men and women.” Pfeufer Kahn’s book, Bearing Meaning: The Language of Birth (University of Illinois Press), won the 1997 American Sociological Association’s Jesse Bernard Award.

An abstract about Mother Outlaws: Theories and Practices of Empowered Mothering says, “Feminist scholars of motherhood distinguish between mothering and motherhood, and argue that the latter is a patriarchal institution that is oppressive to women. Few scholars, however, have considered how mothering, as a female-defined and centred experience, may be a site of empowerment for women. This collection is the first to do so.

“Mother Outlaws examines how mothers imagine and implement theories and practices of mothering that are empowering to women. Central to this inquiry is the recognition that mothers and children benefit when the mother lives her life, and practises mothering, from a position of agency, authority, authenticity and autonomy.”

The collection has five sections: Feminist Mothering, Lesbian Mothering, African American Mothering, Mothers and Daughters and Mothers and Sons.

For more information on O’Reilly, read the March 31 YFile.