Review by Choice Review
Atkinson explores the history of the concept and institution of motherhood from the formation of the Christian medieval tradition to the epochal changes introduced by the Renaissance and Reformation. Two chapters treat early Christian attitudes toward motherhood and the survival of ancient theories about women's physiology. Another two investigate the monastic notions of "spiritual motherhood" that dominated the early Middle Ages and the new concept of theological motherhood expressed in the cult of the Virgin Mary that emerged in the high Middle Ages. Two more consider changing attitudes toward the family and female sanctity in the late Middle Ages and the decisive alteration of these late medieval views in the 16th century. A concluding chapter assesses the effect of changing concepts of motherhood on modern attitudes toward women. Atkinson argues that motherhood is not only a physiological phenomenon but a cultural construct as well, which alters over time: "Motherhood was never purely 'natural'; it has always been shaped by religious systems, power relationships, and material structures." An important contribution to the cultural history of the European family. College and university libraries. S. D. Sargent; Union College (NY)
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
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