Love and Toil
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Love and Toil : Motherhood in Outcast London, 1870-1918

3.9 (66 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

The feisty warm-hearted "mum" has long figured as a symbol of the working class in Britain, yet working-class history has emphasized male organizations such as clubs, unions, or political parties. Investigating a different dimension of social history, Love and Toil focuses on motherhood among the London poor in the late Victorian and Edwardian years, and on the cultures, communities, and ties with husbands and children that women created. Mothers' skills in managing the family budget, earning income, and caring for their children were critical in protecting households from the worst hardships of industrial capitalism, yet poverty or the threat of it molded intimate relationships and left its imprint on personalities. This book is also a case study demonstrating the larger argument that the concept of "motherhood" is more socially and historically constructed than biologically determined. Shaky household economics, pressure toward respectability, the close proximity of neighbors, the precariousness of infant and child life, and little chance of better lives for their children shaped the work and emotions of motherhood much more than did the biological experiences of pregnancy, birth, and lactation. This beautifully written book, embellished with Cockney slang and music hall songs, addresses fascinating questions in the fields of women's studies, labor history, social policy, and family history.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 326 pages
  • 149.86 x 226.06 x 22.86mm | 476.27g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New.
  • halftones, map, tables
  • 0195083210
  • 9780195083217
  • 1,432,085

Review quote

Women's experience of bearing children and bringing them up, and the importance of motherhood to women's identity, now dominate research agendas on both sides of the Atlantic. It is Ross's great achievement to place that role within a specific historical context, to show what the Victorians thought about the prescriptive mother - her duties and obligations ... Hers is an ... original and very precise study ... Model Mothers is a richly documented study which draws extensively upon personal interviews and a wide range of medical, charitable and official records ... suggestive and rewarding study ... a significant advance on our understanding of our families and ourselves. * David Englander, The Open University, EHR Nov. 96 * Women's experience of bearing children and bringing them up, and the importance of motherhood to women's identity, now dominate research agendas on both sides of the Atlantic. It is Ross' great achievement to place that role within a specific historical context... Her account of the daily struggle for existence and the thousand-and-one tasks required to put food on the table for husbands and children is truly impressive. * English Historical Review * finely researched...Ross's lively presentation of evidence unobtrusively guides readers towards her arguments and makes Love and Toil a book to savor for the specialist and non-specialist alike...marks offers fascinating and original comparisons between Jews and their Irish Catholic neighbors which provide an exemparly model for social and medical historians studying multi-ethnic communities. In an insightful and sensitive way, Ellen Ross has drawn together the various strands in this complex history of motherhood and produced a masterpiece which promises to be of long-term importance. Beautifully composed and neatly balanced between poignant passages and funny ones, Ross has composed a book which is easy to read. * Labour History Review *show more

About Ellen Ross

Ellen Ross is Professor of Women's Studies at Ramapo College.show more

Rating details

66 ratings
3.9 out of 5 stars
5 26% (17)
4 47% (31)
3 21% (14)
2 5% (3)
1 2% (1)
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