11th 2014
“Maternal Solicitude,” or, how to avoid both infanticide and suicide!

Posted under: American history, childhood, Gender, the body, unhappy endings, women's history

babydos&dontsFrom the very first paragraph of Mary Watkins’s Maternal Solicitude, or Lady’s Manual (New York, 1809), h/t to my graduate student, Clarissa:

WHEN a mother does not nurse her own infant, she, in many instances, does violence to nature; a custom unknown among the most polished in the purest ages of Greece and Rome.  The sudden check given to this great natural evacuation of milk, at a time when her weakly state renders her unable to sustain so great a shock, is often of the worst consequences to herself; and the loss to the child is much greater than in commonly apprehended.  A woman in this case, runs the imminent risk of her life from a milk-fever; besides the danger of swellings and imposthumes of the breast, and such obstruction in them as lay a foundation of a future cancer, (7).

Yes, a 205-year old breastfeeding manual on the first page threatens the reader with both the loss of her child and CANCER!  But let’s not get too smug today.  Maternal Solicitude is almost as subtle as modern pro-breastfeeding propaganda.

Happy Mother’s Day!  Try to avoid both infanticide and suicide, you powerful, fearsome monsters!


5 Responses to ““Maternal Solicitude,” or, how to avoid both infanticide and suicide!”

  1. truffula on 11 May 2014 at 4:28 pm #

    The alternative to cancer, the great natural evacuation of milk and overall weakly state associated with child birthing and feeding don’t sound so excellent either. I don’t think women can get out of the bind on this one. There is a “u’re doin’ in wrong” card for every decision a mother makes.

  2. ProfSweddy on 12 May 2014 at 6:33 am #

    It’s always the mother’s fault, isn’t it?

  3. Spam attack thwarted! : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 12 May 2014 at 10:08 am #

    […] you tried to comment on any but the most recent post (on Maternal Solicitude) yesterday from about 3 p.m. MDT until 7:30 this morning, you probably discovered that comments […]

  4. Historiann on 12 May 2014 at 6:38 pm #

    OMG. This movie looks ridiculous. Do they want to send thousands of women running out of theaters, weeping and tearing their hair out? (And maybe leaking breastmilk all over the place?)

  5. truffula on 12 May 2014 at 11:10 pm #

    Re: that movie. OMG indeed. Even “do what’s right for you” is a loaded sentiment.

    I plan to adopt “great natural evacuation” into my everyday usage. It fits a lot of activities.

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