Conceiving the Future: Pronatalism, Reproduction & the Family in the United States, 1890-1938

Conceiving the Future is a look at how, during a formative period of our nation’s history, cultural currents converged to create a powerful environment of “pronatalism.”  It is one of the few books since Ellen Peck’s book, Pronatalism came out in the 70s to take on the problems with the ideology of promoting child-bearing and glorifying parenthood.

Laura Lovett goes beyond public policies clearly designed to encourage families to something deeper. As the United States emerged from the Industrial Revolution and grew into a world power, it held on to a romantic image of its agrarian past that persisted even as it became outdated, producing what the author calls a “nostalgic modernism.” And certain idealizations of motherhood and family were an integral part of that nostalgia. Lovett gives us the backdrop of how pronatalism has become an unquestioned social force which has produced a universal parenthood ideal and the idealization of maternity.  A must read for anyone interested in books on social issues, culture, and women’s history, particularly the history of pronatalism.  Now we need to go further, and need additional works that look the problems this social force creates in today’s society.

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