Rocking the Cradle: Thoughts on Motherhood, Feminism and the Possibility of Empowered Mothering


Price: $24.95

Page Count: 220

Publication Date: May 2006

ISBN: 1-55014-449-9

The oppressive and the empowering dimensions of maternity, as well as the complex relationship between the two, first identified by Adrienne Rich in Of Woman Born, has been the focus of feminist scholarship on motherhood over the last three decades. While feminist research on motherhood has focused on many topics, these studies have been informed and shaped by larger inquiries: namely, how do we challenge patriarchal motherhood? How do we create feminist mothering? And finally, how are the two aims interconnected? Rocking the Cradle, composed of twelve essays, will explore these questions.  

"Andrea O'Reilly provides a much-needed antidote to the popularized misconception that feminists are “against” mothers. A careful and comprehensive engagement with theoretical issues, significant texts and personal experience, Rocking the Cradle is certain to become essential reading for anyone wishing to think through the maze of motherhood as social institution and mothering as lived experience.

--Meredith W. Michaels, Professor of Philosophy, Smith College and co-author with Susan J. Douglas of The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined All Women (Free Press 2004)

"True to its name, O’Reilly’s collection "rocks"—and not just the cradle, but also the foundation of patriarchy’s rigid rules for mothering. This highly readable, sweeping, and provocative volume offers a broadly appealing model of the road to empowerment through the practices of feminist mothering."

—Sharon Hays, Streisand Chair of Gender Studies, University of Southern California

"This is an important book. Andrea O’Reilly makes a powerful case for the necessity of empowered mothering, and anyone who has experienced motherhood as a radicalizing event in her own life will recognize herself in this nuanced, thoughtful discussion of what it means to be a feminist and a mother in the twenty-first century."

—Andrea Buchanan, author of Mother Shock and editor of Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined

"By tracking the parallels between the author’s evolution as a feminist scholar and her changing experience of motherhood, Rocking the Cradle offers a unique and important contribution to the field of maternal studies. The range of works included in this collection is particularly noteworthy for revealing the challenges and complexities of theorizing a working model of empowered mothering in Western society."

—Judith Stadtman Tucker, Editor, The Mothers Movement Online


Preface: Good Question … I’ll Be Writing on This by Sara Ruddick

Foreword: Rocking the Cradle to Change the World

Introduction: From Patriarchal Motherhood to Feminist Mothering

Section I: Motherhood

Chapter One: Labour Signs: The Semiotics of Birthing

Chapter Two: Talking Back in Mother Tongue: A Feminist Course on Mothering-Motherhood

Chapter Three: What’s A Girl Like You Doing in a Nice Place Like This? Mothering in the Academe

Chapter Four: "Ain’t That Love?"Antiracism and Racial Constructions of Motherhood

Chapter Five: Across the Divide: Contemporary Anglo-American Feminist Theory on the Mother-Daughter Relationship

Section II: Mothering

Chapter Six: "Home Is Where the Revolution Is": Womanist Thought on African American Mothering

Chapter Seven: "A Politics of the Heart": Toni Morrison’s Theory of Motherwork

Chapter Eight: In Black and White: African-American and Anglo-American Feminist Perspectives on Mothers and Sons

Chapter Nine: A Mom and Her Son: Thoughts on Feminist Mothering

Chapter Ten: "This Is What Feminism Is: The Acting and Living … Not Just the Told" Mentoring and Modeling Feminism


Andrea O’Reilly is an Associate Professor of Women’s Studies, York University, Toronto and Director of the Association for Research on Mothering. She is the author of Toni Morrison and Motherhood: A Politics of the Heart, and editor of eight books on mothering including Mother Outlaws: Theories and Practices of Empowered Mothering.