Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Drawing on the Western feminist tradition to analyze modern childcare advice as part of the "institution of motherhood" (Adrienne Rich), this dissertation explores the role played by the advice literature on childcare in the construction of normative motherhood in Russia from the late Imperial period through Soviet times, from 1890 to 1990. The study focuses on the Protection of Motherhood and Infancy (the OMM) movement, launched by medical professionals at the turn of the twentieth century as a philanthropic project aimed at combating high infant mortality in the country, and follows its transformation after 1917 into the state-sponsored and state-regulated system of medical and economic support for Soviet mothers and children. The fragmented notion of femininity in the Soviet Union, which incorporated both the ideology of women's emancipation (constructed primarily as women's participation in the labor force) and the pronatalist emphasis on women's roles as mothers created a complex interplay between the "emancipatory" and the traditionalist discourses of motherhood in childrearing literature. Due to the uneven character of Russian modernization and the lack of cultural homogeneity between urban and rural populaces, childrearing manuals perpetuated cultural hierarchy between medical specialists and mothers, which resulted in the didacticism of Soviet childrearing advice. Childcare manuals constructed the reader not as a peer, but as, essentially, a student, who needed tutoring and disciplining. The "privatization of the modern" ethos that started to characterize family life in the wake of the housing reform of the 1960s reinforced the notion that mothering was a private and highly personalized experience. This emphasis on the individual resulted in the emergence in the 1970s and in the 1980s of the figure of parent-expert and in the reversal of traditional hierarchical expert-parent framework typical of earlier periods.
Copyright 2009 Natalia Chernyaeva
Chernyaeva, Natalia. "Childcare manuals and construction of motherhood in Russia, 1890-1990." dissertation, University of Iowa, 2009.