Women’s Bodies, Mothers’ Bodies

Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907), Mère allongée avec un enfant [Mother and Child Reclining], oil on canvas, 82.5 x 124.7 cm, 1906-1907, Musée Paula Modersohn-Becker, Bremen (Ludwig Roselius collection).
“The Peri-Corset for pregnant women,” in Dr. Ludovic O’Followell, Le corset (Paris: A. Maloine, 1905), 179. Source: Wikimedia Commons https://goo.gl/EzNqUj

Maternity represents a central element in the definition of the female body. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, the medicalization of maternity, along with demographic and health considerations, led to greater control over the reproductive bodies of women. However, a major change took place during the second half of the twentieth century, with the gradual dissociation between women’s bodies and maternity, and the struggle for recognition of women’s right to control over their bodies. The current period is once again exploring maternity and its connections to the female body, as the development of assisted reproductive technologies, for instance, has dissociated the process of maternity, requiring a redefinition of what constitutes a mother.