Mother – Sarah Knott
*As heard on Radio 4 Woman’s Hour*
What was mothering like in the past?
When acclaimed historian Sarah Knott became pregnant, she asked herself this question. But accounts of motherhood are hard to find. For centuries, historians have concerned themselves with wars, politics and revolutions, not the everyday details of carrying and caring for a baby. Much to do with becoming a mother, past or present, is lost or forgotten.
Using the arc of her own experience, from miscarriage to the birth and early babyhood of her two children, Sarah Knott explores the ever-changing habits and experiences of motherhood across the ages. Drawing on a disparate collection of fascinating material – interrupted letters, hastily written diary entries, a line from a court record or a figure in a painting – Mother vividly brings to life the lost stories of ordinary women.
From the labour pains felt by a South Carolina field slave to the triumphant smile of a royal mistress pregnant with a king’s first son; from a 1950s suburban housewife to a working-class East Ender taking her baby to the factory; from a pioneer with eight children to a 1970s feminist debating whether to have any; these remarkable tales of mothering create a moving depiction of an endlessly various human experience.
‚Timely and fascinating’ Amanda Foreman, bestselling author of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire
‚Utterly compelling’ Financial Times
‚Heartfelt and original’ Sunday Times
‚A joy to read’ New York Times
‚I wept over Sarah Knott’s Mother… The emotive power of Knott’s social history flows from her excellence as a writer and storyteller’ Spectator
‚A stunning book. It is riveting from beginning to end’ Diane Atkinson, author of Rise Up Women!: The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes
‚A remarkable history – exploratory, pointillist, and intensely personal – of what it is, and has been, to be a mother.’ Helen Castor, BBC presenter and author of She-Wolves
‚Moving and enlightening’ Fara Dabhoiwala, author of The Origins of Sex