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The Anchor of My Life

Middle-Class American Mothers and Daughters, 1880-1920

Linda Rosenzweig

Publication Year: 1994

Relying on women's own words in letters and journals, Rosenzweig refutes the prescriptive literature of the times with its dire predictions of inevitable rifts between Victorian mothers and their daughters, the new women of the twentieth century. Instead Rosenzweig shows us mothers who rejoiced in their daughters' educational successes and, while they did not always comprehend the nature of the changes taking place, were only too happy to see their daughters escape some of their own restrictions and grief.

Extremely useful to scholars and teachers of women's history and family history, The Anchor of My Life should also be fascinating to the general public for the accurate window that it provides on these complicated family relationship in our history.
—Laurie Crumpacker , Department of History, Simmons College

"Drawing on a broad array of historical sources, The Anchor of My Lifechallenges the common assumption that mother-daughter relationships invariably are characterized by tensions and conflicts. This lively and moving book deserves a wide audience."
—Emily K. Abel , author of Circles of Care: Work and Identity in Women's Lives

The relationship between mothers and daughters has been the subject of much research and study, in such fields as psychoanalysis, sociology, and women's studies. But rarely has the history and evolution of this relationship been examined.

In The Anchor of My Life, Linda W. Rosenzweig draws on a wide range of primary sources--letters, diaries, autobiographies, prescriptive advice or self-help literature, and fiction—to reveal the historical nuances of this pivotal relationship. Rosenzweig's distinctive approach focuses on the interaction between mothers and daughters of the American middle class at the turn of the century, revealing that mothers and daughters managed to sustain close, nurturing relationships in an era marked by a major female generation gap in terms of aspirations and opportunities. Illustrated with photographs and portraits of the time, The Anchor of My Life provocatively challenges the facile, late twentieth-century assumption that the mother-daughter relationship is necessarily defined by hostility, guilt, and antagonism.

Published by: NYU Press

Cover

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pp. c-ii

Title Page

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p. iii-iii

Copyright Page

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pp. iv-vi

CONTENTS

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pp. vii-viii

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PREFACE

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pp. ix-xvi

CONTEMPORARY historians recognize that a subjective relationship exists between researchers and their work, and that various factors predispose scholars to study particular problems. Traditionally, the influence of social and political contexts has been stressed, but more recently, the role of private and family...

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CHAPTER 1 "THE CENTRAL PROBLEM OF FEMALE EXPERIENCE": INTRODUCTION

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pp. 1-21

FOR many late twentieth-century feminist writers, the mother-daughter relationship has symbolized not a source of support and comfort, but a morass of bitterness and resentment. As Nikki Stiller has observed, during the late 1960s and throughout the following decade "it was rather bad form for a woman to mention...

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CHAPTER 2 "MY GIRLS' MOTHERS": THE EMOTIONOLOGY OF MOTHER-DAUGHTER RELATIONSHIPS, 1880-1920

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pp. 22-40

IN 1917 a contributor to the popular women's magazine, Good Housekeeping, made the following assertion:
In the lifetime of girls even twenty years old, the tradition of what girls should be and do in the world has changed as much as heretofore in a century. It used to be that girls looked forward with confidence to domestic life as their destiny. That is still the destiny of most of them, but it is a destiny...

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CHAPTER 3 "CULTURAL WORK": MOTHER-DAUGHTER RELATIONSHIPS IN NOVELS

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pp. 41-69

WHEN Sylvia Marshall's grand tour of Europe is cut short by the news of the death of her mother in Dorothy Canfield Fisher's The Bent Twig, the young woman is overcome by grief: "How could her mother be dead? What did it mean to have her mother dead? ... She said the grim words over and over, the...

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CHAPTER 4 "A GIRL'S BEST FRIEND": ADOLESCENT DAUGHTERS AND THEIR MOTHERS

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pp. 70-90

FOR Edna Ormsby, the birth of a daughter on December 20, 1891, represented an auspicious occasion. "She is perfect in every way and promises to be a bright child for which we feel that we can not be thankful enough to the Good Father," Mrs. Ormsby wrote in her diary. "I hope and pray that she may live to be a noble...

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CHAPTER 5 "I AM SO GLAD YOU COULD GO TO COLLEGE": THE "NEW WOMAN" AND HER MOTHER

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pp. 91-113

WHEN Louise Marion Bosworth entered Wellesley College in 1902, she joined the ranks of the small, but significant, vanguard of middle-class young women who attended college between 1880 and 1920. These "new women" constituted a group whose untraditional behavior clearly and conclusively refuted...

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CHAPTER 6 "WE NEED EACH OTHER": ADULT DAUGHTERS AND THEIR MOTHERS

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pp. 114-133

AS Lucy Wilson Peters embarked on married life on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 1890, she linked her own life with that of her mother in a new and adult way: she now shared her mother's wedding anniversary, and that of her maternal grandmother and an aunt as well.1 Lucy's selection of this particular day...

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CHAPTER 7 "THE REVOLT OF THE DAUGHTERS": MIDDLE-CLASS ENGLISH MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS

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pp. 134-166

THE preponderance of strong, mutually supportive American mother-daughter interactions between 1880 and 1920 seems especially striking in light of the conspicuously different patterns revealed by an investigation of middle-class English mother-daughter relationships during the same period. Because the lives of...

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CHAPTER 8 "MOTHER DROVE US IN THE STUDEBAKER": AMERICAN MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS AFTER 1920

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pp. 167-192

ALTHOUGH middle-class American mother-daughter relationships never replicated the English patterns exhibited in the era of the "new woman," there is some evidence of change during the decades following 1920. While in many ways, the interactions of twentieth-century mothers and daughters resembled...

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CHAPTER 9 "THE ANCHOR OF MY LIFE": TOWARD A HISTORY OF MOTHER-DAUGHTER RELATIONSHIPS

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pp. 193-216

THE task of analyzing the nature of interpersonal relationships in the past poses a formidable challenge for the historian who must carefully peruse a range of personal, social, and cultural documents in search of that which is not said as well as that which is clearly articulated. Historically as well as in the contemporary...

NOTES

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pp. 217-288

INDEX

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pp. 289-bc


E-ISBN-13: 9780814769492
E-ISBN-10: 0814769489
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814774557
Print-ISBN-10: 0814774555

Page Count: 293
Publication Year: 1994

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Subject Headings

  • Mothers and daughters -- United States -- History.
  • Middle class women -- United States -- History.
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