Pregnancy and Power: A Short History of Reproductive Politics in America

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NYU Press, Nov 1, 2005 - History - 303 pages
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A sweeping chronicle of women's battles for reproductive freedom throughout American history, Pregnancy and Power explores the many forces—social, racial, economic, and political—that have shaped women’s reproductive lives in the United States.

Leading historian Rickie Solinger argues that a woman’s control over her body involves much more than the right to choose an abortion. Reproductive politics were at play when slaveholders devised breeding schemes, when the U.S. government took Indian children from their families in the nineteenth century, and when doctors pressed Latina women to be sterilized in the 1970s. Tracing the diverse plot lines of women’s reproductive lives throughout American history, Solinger redefines the idea of reproductive freedom, putting race and class at the center of the effort to control sex and pregnancy in America over time.

Solinger asks which women have how many children under what circumstances, and shows how reproductive experiences have been encouraged or coerced, rewarded or punished, honored or exploited over the last 250 years. Viewed in this way, the debate over reproductive rights raises questions about access to sex education and prenatal care, about housing laws, about access to citizenship, and about which women lose children to adoption and foster care.

Pregnancy and Power shows that a complete understanding of reproductive politics must take into account the many players shaping public policy—lawmakers, educators, employers, clergy, physicians—as well as the consequences for women who obey and resist these policies. Tracing the diverse plotlines of women's reproductive lives throughout American history, Solinger redefines the idea of reproductive freedom, putting race and class at the center of the struggle to control sex and pregnancy in America.

 

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Contents

III
28
IV
64
V
104
VI
132
VII
164
VIII
210
X
256
XI
288
XII
290
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Page 14 - That woman's physical structure and the performance of maternal functions place her at a disadvantage in the struggle for subsistence is obvious. This is especially true when the burdens of motherhood are upon her. Even when they are not, by abundant testimony of the medical fraternity continuance for a long time on her feet at work, repeating this from day to day, tends to injurious effects upon the body, and as healthy mothers are essential to vigorous offspring, the physical wellbeing of woman...
Page 13 - She becomes unmindful of the course marked out for her by Providence, she overlooks the duties imposed on her by the marriage contract. She yields to the pleasures — but shrinks from the pains and responsibilities of maternity; and, destitute of all delicacy and refinement, resigns herself, body and soul, into the hands of unscrupulous and wicked men. Let not the husband of such a wife flatter himself that he possesses her affection. Nor can she in turn ever merit even the respect of a virtuous...
Page 31 - WHEREAS some doubts have arisen whether children got by any Englishman upon a Negro woman should be slave or free, Be it therefore enacted and declared by this present grand assembly, that all children borne in this country shall be held bond or free only according to the condition of the mother...
Page 274 - Mary Beth Norton, Liberty's Daughters, The Revolutionary Experience of American Women. 1750-1800 (Boston, Little, Brown, 1980), pp.

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About the author (2005)

Rickie Solinger is an independent historian who lives in the Hudson Valley. Her books include "Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade," "The Abortionist: A Woman Against the Law," and "Beggars and Choosers: How the Politics of Choice Shapes Adoption, Abortion, and Welfare in the United States.

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