Mothering is as old as human existence. But how has this most essential experience changed over time and cultures? What is the history of maternity—the history of pregnancy, birth, the encounter with an infant? In Mother Is a Verb: An Unconventional History
(Sarah Crichton Books, 2020), Sarah Knott
creates a genre all her own in order to craft a new kind of historical interpretation. Blending memoir and history and building from anecdote, her book brings the past and the present viscerally alive. As a history, Mother: An Unconventional History
draws on the terrain of Britain and North America from the seventeenth century to the close of the twentieth. Knott searches among a range of past societies, from those of Cree and Ojibwe women to tenant farmers in Appalachia; from enslaved people on South Carolina rice plantations to tenement dwellers in New York City and London’s East End. She pores over diaries, letters, court records, medical manuals, items of clothing. And she explores and documents her own experiences.
Dr. Julia M. Gossard is assistant professor of history and distinguished assistant professor of honor’s education at Utah State University. A historian of 18th-century France, Julia’s manuscript, Young Subjects: Childhood, State-Building, & Social Reform in the 18th-century French World (forthcoming, McGill-Queen’s UP), examines children as important actors in social reform, state-building, and imperial projects across the early modern French world. Dr. Gossard is active on Twitter. To learn more about her teaching, research, and experience in digital humanities, visit her website.