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Extra resources for Good Enough Mothering?: Feminist Perspectives on Lone Motherhood

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3 Pregnancy While knowledge about contraception was systematically suppressed, knowledge of abortion techniques that would interfere with a pregnancy going to term were also increasingly subject to control in the nineteenth century. Although before 1800 it was a common-law offence to abort a foetus after the stage of quickening or ensoulment 42 Carol Smart (after approximately eighty days) it appears that no one was ever convicted of such an offence (Sauer 1978). Thus it was during the nineteenth century that the criminal law was increasingly deployed to stop this practice and, ultimately, to make abortion a crime at any point during a pregnancy.

Yet the identification of women with the ‘essence’ of motherhood seems to have brought no gains for women in other spheres of social life. Nostalgic views of mothering risk stressing losses rather than contradictory shifts, gains and redefinitions. They also underestimate change and fail to take sufficient account of the power of women in shaping mothering in ways that suit their own needs and interests. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS For criticisms, references and suggestions I would like to thank Jean Gardiner, Katrina Honeyman, Carol Smart and Steven Tolliday.

He points out that, as a consequence, although there was a general fall in fertility rates in the nineteenth century in England, the exception to this was the urban poor. In addition, we have to recognize that the state was ready to prosecute as obscene any published contraceptive information and that, initially at least, both the medical profession and the women’s movement argued strongly against the availability of newer forms of contraception (such as rubber condoms). There was therefore a loss of knowledge, an active suppression both of traditional knowledges and of new technologies, which put women at greater risk of pregnancies at a time when alternative non-procreative forms of sexual expression were being pathologized most actively.

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