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2 - Women's Rights and Responsibilities as Mothers: Perspectives from the Left-Wing Women's Press and Nonfiction Writing

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 February 2024

Katherine E. Calvert
Affiliation:
University College Dublin
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Summary

During the Weimar Period, the political left presented itself as an authority on modern socialist mothering practices and drew on emerging theories of childhood development and psychoanalysis to influence the ways in which women raised their children. This modern approach to child raising was accompanied by a progressive position regarding the rights of single mothers and support for legal access to birth control and abortion. Articles informing women about their rights as mothers appeared in the journalistic publications of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Communist Party (KPD), and the sex reform movement. While a largely uncritical acceptance of gender difference and framing of motherhood as women's duty runs throughout these publications, they seek to improve women's experiences of motherhood by stressing their rights and providing childcare guidance. Many articles from the Weimar period cite psychoanalytic theories to explain the psychological development of children and offer mothers advice on how to manage their children's behavior. Given the conservative tendencies of psychoanalysis, which Bell and Offen suggest reinforced traditional views of the family and women's social role, the prevalence of psychoanalytic ideas in the left-wing media is somewhat unexpected. In this chapter I argue that socialist women's magazines and pamphlets present themselves as authorities on modern mothering practices and that the inclusion of scientific discourses, including psychoanalytic theories, forms part of this positioning. Their approach is highly pragmatic as they focus on practical improvements to women's rights and experiences as mothers while largely eschewing the theoretical or philosophical discussions in which left-wing thinkers and intellectuals engaged. This approach, as I will show, enabled socialist writers and journalists to promote their politics to an audience typically less associated with more-visible forms of political action in a climate in which conservative ideas of gender roles remained dominant.

A broad selection of material is included in my discussion to identify trends in left-wing journalism and political nonfiction aimed at a female audience during the Weimar period. The women's magazine of the SPD, Frauenwelt (Women's World, 1924–33) forms the basis of my analysis, which also draws on further examples from the women's press, including Frauenwelt's predecessor, Die Gleichheit (Equality, 1892–1923), and the communist-supporting women's magazine Der Weg der Frau (Women's Way, 1931–33). Because of the journalistic nature of this material, a relatively large number of individual authors are cited.

Type
Chapter
Information
Modeling Motherhood in Weimar Germany
Political and Psychological Discourses in Women's Writing
, pp. 52 - 79
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2023

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