Provocative Mothers and Their Precocious Daughters
By Suzanne Schnittman
Read Aug 2020
This reader devoured this thoughtful and thought provoking book. The author’s scholarship is remarkable. She has reviewed countless pages of primary source documents—personal letters, diaries, and the writings of these remarkable women, as well as countless pages of secondary sources—biographies, histories, etc. The author then concisely presents the reader with clear pictures of these reform mothers and their daughters—how the reform mothers managed motherhood and their activism, for several of the mothers on very limited incomes; how their activism translates to their parenting of their daughters; how the daughters responded to this parenting and the kind of adult they became as a result; and how the relationship between mother and daughter evolved over time. This reader appreciated the extensive footnotes—it gave this reader confidence that the pictures presented of events and personal feelings reflect the data available about them and appreciation that the heavy lifting had been thoughtfully and thoroughly done by the author.
The book gave this reader much to consider about both mother/daughter relationships and how new access to rights or advantages of one generation impacts both the parent/child relationship and the person/society relationship. Some aspects of the mother/daughter relationship are likely universal and not impacted by time or place. This likely includes hoping for the life of the daughter to be even easier/better than experienced by the mother and hoping that the daughter will support the mother in times of need. How this translates in particular, however, is likely dependent on the constraints present in society, laws, and religious/tribal/family culture at the time. When these constraints change substantially from one generation to the next, the relationships between parent/child and person/society might be different for one generation of children compared with another which can be both liberating for the child and troubling for the parent and society.
This book is one you won’t forget soon and it will likely incite further exploration of the history of struggles for rights in this society that have needed amendments to the Constitution and/or federal laws to make them possible and how society has evolved as a result.