WILLA v9 - "Weeping for the Mother:" A Feminist Daughter Calls for Change in the Public Schooling of Girls

Volume 9
Fall 2000

"Weeping for the Mother:" A Feminist Daughter Calls for Change in the Public Schooling of Girls

by Brenda Daly, Iowa State University

My mother died alone in 1997 at the age of 75. At the end of her life, she simply withdrew from others-her sole companion was her little dog Sweetie. When I asked, during our weekly phone conversations, if she were meeting people and making new friends, she would say, "Oh yes, I talk to the driver of the senior citizen bus." "But Mom," I said, "you ride the bus only once every two weeks." "It's enough," she insisted. Yet it grieves me that my mother, who lived far from me, was so alone. I weep for her still. Had she learned to live differently, I could be writing this as a eulogy. I have publicly praised her creativity as a seamstress, quilter, and gardener, even as I yearn to pay tribute to her role in my schooling, but I continue to struggle with conflicting emotions--love, guilt, anger, pride, shame, disappointment, sadness. She had needed to learn to live differently.

"Perhaps you are disconcerted to hear younger women who believe that feminism is dead or to experience the backlash against gender equity (for example, in the repeal of affirmative action)." Lee Williams speaks for me-and for many others who came of age during the time of Women's Liberation-in the 1998 Editor's column of WILLA. Yes, I am disconcerted, even, at times, discouraged, by the fact that young women do not know the history of feminism nor do they understand its value in their lives. Yes, in some ways, times have changed for women; my own life-as a feminist professor of English-makes that point, as do the changing lives of girls in the early twenty-first century1.

But how much has public schooling changed in terms of its support for girls? In my view-and again, I agree with Williams-it has not changed enough. The history of public schooling may help to explain why. In the nineteenth century the feminization of teaching enabled more women to enter the profession; however, women teachers were discouraged from assuming administrative positions. As Madeleine Grumet (1988) reminds us, instead hey were expected to be teachers (patriarchal mothers) who, while submitting to (fatherly) administrative control, trained the students (children) to submit to father rule. School curricula and pedagogy were organized to encourage the child's identification with the father through a gradual differentiation from maternal nurturance. In short, organizational hierarchies, curricula, and pedagogy have been defined by the absence of maternal values and practices, and public schooling is intended to prepare students for this absence.

To illustrate the long-term effects of such inequity, I want to tell the story of my mother's schooling, particularly in terms of how it affected her life and mine. My hope is that this story may be of some value to those who continue the struggle, despite the backlash against feminism, to transform public schools into places that practice and affirm equity for all human beings.

Like the stories of the working-class women in Wendy Luttrell's School-smart and Mother-wise, my story is one of "persistent sadness and regret, what Nancy Chodorow calls 'weeping for the mother"' (p. 97). I weep for my mother, a major figure in the story of my schooling, primarily because her life was severely limited by her lack of a formal education and specifically, a feminist education. However, I do not mean to suggest that my mother was completely unschooled; despite the fact she did not complete high school, she did learn lessons beyond the classroom.

Because I wanted a better understanding of my mother's education, I once asked her what she had read as a child. She answered, "I read little women [sic] when I was a teenager. I imagined myself as Jo. I'm going to read it again. Never was anything read to me as a child. I remember most vividly my Sunday School Pamphlets. I took them most seriously, and Mrs. Schultz, my teacher, made everything come alive for me"(letter, 24 September, 1994). Since my mother was an avid reader, I had hoped to learn much more, but my mother's letter quickly shifted focus from herself to her father. "I remember being impressed with my Daddy sitting uncomfortably on a kitchen chair, tilted back under a single light bulb--reading far into the nite." When asked about her own reading, she puts the spotlight on her father, a man who, even at the age of 72, she called "Daddy." Like the working-class women in Wendy Luttrell's study, my mother tended to describe men-her father or husband-as intelligent, or school-smart, while discounting her own abilities.

My grandfather, a patriarch so controlling he did not allow his wife to have spending money, taught my mother to play the family's marginal and submissive roles-daughter, wife and mother. Her family schooling did not prepare her to play the part of Jo-the hero of her own life. I recall hearing only one story in which my mother played the part of hero. As a young girl, she had rescued a drowning boy. The drowning boy was my Uncle Olav, who, on the occasion of her 75th birthday in February 1997, sent an audio-taped confession that he had, in fact, been drowning, going down for the third time, when she pulled him to shore. But to save face then, he had pretended it had been a joke! It was only now, after more than sixty years, that he acknowledged that my mother, a good swimmer, actually saved his life. How I love this story: my mother as hero, my mother as Jo. Generally, however, my mother was not taught to play the part of hero; rather, she was taught to sacrifice herself on the altar of marriage and motherhood. These "pedagogies of everyday life," as Carmen Luke calls them, shaped my mother's beliefs and actions-as well as her inaction-and had serious consequences, not only for herself but also for her seven children. A life of self-sacrifice to husband and children made her angry, but rather than acknowledge the great cost of her self-denial, she expected payment from her children. Her "gifts" came, as one of my sisters says, "with strings attached."

Although my mother was my first love, and I grieve for her, my feminist education has enabled me to critique her views of marriage and motherhood. At this very moment, writing is an act of resistance, not to my mother, but to the pedagogies of everyday life that severely damaged her. How, exactly, was my mother damaged? As Adrienne Rich explains, under patriarchy many women feel that their mothers have abandoned them. For my mother this problem may have been exacerbated by the fact that her own mother, who had been afflicted with scarlet fever as a child, was not well. Because doctors warned that my grandmother might die from overwork, my grandfather sought "hired girls" to help with childcare and household responsibilities. According to my mother, her sickly mother often treated her more as an indentured servant. "You make the cream cake, Arline," she would say when her ladies aid came calling. "You make it so well." The fact that it was her father, not her mother, who straightened her tangled garter-belt, smoothed her "ugly" brown stockings, and dried her tears before sending her off to school in Hanks, North Dakota, may explain my mother's intense loyalty to him.

Yet she suffered from the absence of mother love. On her way to school-running across the yard, down and up the ditch, across the highway, down and up the second ditch she would chant, "What's going to happen today? What's going to happen today?" I was startled to find this anxious question echoed in my mother's last journal entry (14 August 1997): what's going to happen today? Yet she did not call anyone that day; she didn't know her neighbors except for one woman who had talked with her at the mailbox on her favorite topic, books, and there is no record of any long distance phone call. Instead she sought comfort from food, as she often had. The last person to see her alive was the Schwan's man who made a delivery of ice cream, pork chops, bacon, and cod. Was food a substitute for mother-love? Once, observing my mother rubbing one curled-up foot against the other, I was reminded of another story she had told me, of a hired girl so lonely that, in order to fall asleep at night, she rubbed one foot against the other for hours. "I am not lonely," my mother says, in a letter dated, "Last day of April 1997." "Seems like I'm taking a shower every day, just to get the warm on me. Sat on deck this AM--eyes shut and just absorbed the sun. I saw, later, two little wrens and a humming bird [sic]. Yesterday a female

Cardinal came to the feeder, they don't come very often but you see them in the trees." She is assuring me-I am not alone, I have visitors. Perhaps so. Being alone is, I understand, not the same as loneliness.

In fact, even though my mother was often alone as a young child and, later, as a divorced woman, she may actually have felt the greatest loneliness during the thirty years of her loveless marriage. As a girl, I recognized her loneliness. That is why, when I went away to college, I worried about how she would manage without me as her protector and confidante. I knew my father offered her neither love nor comfort. Nor did he provide adequate financial support for our family, which is why my mother found it necessary, in addition to caring for her own seven children, to take in sewing. Her customers included the wives of doctors who, recognizing her superb skills as a seamstress, brought her expensive fabrics and complicated designer patterns. These women were perfectly polite when they came for fittings, but it must have occurred to my mother that they would wear their beautiful dresses to parties to which she was never invited. My mother had also designed and sewn clothes for me, sometimes under the most challenging conditions. Once, for example, she took apart a too-large Japanese kimono made of exquisite fabric, which, I had received as a gift, to create a bolero-style jacket that I wore with a blouse and flowing skirt. As before, my mother was not invited to the party at which I wore this beautiful garment.

So far as I can recall, my father rarely invited my mother to a party or took her out to dinner. Of course, he had little money for such luxuries; however, he may also have resisted such romantic expenditures because he felt that my mother had trapped him into marriage. After their divorce in 1972, my father claimed- in a story that circulated among his Alcoholics Anonymous friends-that his first child, a daughter born six months after their marriage, was not his biological child. My youngest sister, a member of the same AA community, told me this story shortly after my mother's death. It was a story I had already heard, a story I had repeated to my mother, who angrily denied it. But I wonder-did this fantasy, that my sister was not his daughter, but the dirty trick my mother had used to trap him, allow my father to rationalize sexually abusing my sister when she was only seven years old? If so, the theory that Louise Armstrong offers in Rocking the Cradle of Sexual Politics-that a father's sexual abuse of his daughter is often an indirect expression of anger at the mother-makes sense. In fact, my father first abused my older sister while my mother was hospitalized to give birth to her fourth child. It is also possible that my mother tolerated my father's abuse of her-as well as her children-out of guilt for having trapped him into marriage.

A page torn from a novel3, which my mother had carried in her purse for years after my father had divorced her, suggests that my mother may have felt such guilt, along with the pain of rejection. The novel, Taylor Caldwell's Answer as a Man, concludes with this dialogue:

Lionel said with caution, "You act as if you've got a wonderful secret. What is it, darling?" He forced himself to smile. Patricia clapped her gloved hands together in joy, and her smile was wide. "I have, I have!"

"Tell me," he said, and wanted to slap the silly fool. An awful premonition came to him. There had been that one time, just that one accident. Though one time was enough to knock a woman up.

"We're going to be married!" she exclaimed, and now tears rushed into her eyes, tears of happiness. "Right away!"

He said, and even his knees felt cold with fear, "Right away?" She wanted to say, "We're going to have a baby." But she could not. Her throat worked, but a hot shame came to her, an enormous embarrassment. Her face turned red, and seeing that, Lionel was aghast. He thought of her father, Patrick Mulligan. He was ruined, ruined, because of this idiot, this creature. He wanted to kill her!

"But your father wants you to marry Jason Garrity."

"I'll never do that," she said. "Never."

The pedagogy of the romance novel, which engages women readers in fantasies of subduing powerful males, is blatantly evident in this dialogue. Tragically, however, because my mother did not have a feminist education, she probably did not criticize Lionel's misogyny. She may even have accepted Lionel's derision while blaming only Patricia, as she blamed herself, for the shame of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy.

Had I known earlier of the existence of this page, I would have tried to use it to teach her to become what Judith Fetterley describes as a resisting reader. I would have explained that, while Patricia did have momentary power over her father and lover-power of the passive-aggressive kind-she would pay dearly, along with her daughters, for this use of "feminine wiles." How, I wonder, did my mother interpret this scene? Undoubtedly, she identified with Patricia, who feels "a hot shame," but did she also recognize Patricia's feeling of triumph? Like Patricia, my mother had-through the power of her pregnancy-resisted her father's will. She told me that her father, who had objected to her dating the penniless son of a Norwegian immigrant, had taken her to school dances himself to prevent her from dating my father. "But," my mother said with pride, "Jorgen would always claim me." She did not say, "I would always claim Jorgen" -a lady wouldn't say such a thing-but pregnancy may have been a way to claim him. Was my mother upset when she read Lionel's angry response, and did his cruel phrase, "knock up a woman" anger her? When Lionel labels Patricia a "silly fool," an "idiot," was my mother reminded of my father, a man she described as "the smartest in class," a man who made fun of her mental confusion, especially when dealing with numbers or maps.

Was it my mother's lack of confidence in herself as a learner that made it impossible for her to learn feminist thought? I recognize, in retrospect, that my desire to teach my mother to think as a feminist has fueled much of my scholarship and teaching. I imagine, for example, having my mother enrolled as a student in my undergraduate course "Women, Romance, and the American Novel," where she might have learned to critique the ideology of romance novels, both popular and "classic." If my mother had read my essay "Laughing at, or Laughing with the Young Adult Romance, she would have learned that for many women the great appeal of the popular romance is, according to Janice Radway, the centrality of the mother-daughter relationship. However, as Madonne Miner has demonstrated, this recurring feature of the woman-authored romance-the orphan daughter's quest for mother-love-is often disguised by the heterosexual romance plot. To this day, the focus on mothers and daughters explains why women continue to be attracted to popular romances. My own mother was, I believe, so hungry for mother-love that she married my father-not recognizing that what she had truly sought was the love of his warm and nurturing mother. "I used to love going to your Dad's house after school," she once told me. "There was always fresh bread just coming out of the oven, and we could eat it hot. At my house we weren't allowed to do that." I picture my mother as a girl in Grandma Turi's kitchen, talking and laughing with a woman who, in contrast to her own mother, was warm and loving.

It strikes me that, as I write this essay, I am still attempting to free myself from an impossible dream, the dream of mothering my mother. I have attempted to cure myself of this dream through the practice of feminist scholarship, especially by co-authoring a collection4 called Narrating Mother's. Influenced by feminist scholarship on mothering, I began to resist playing the parent to my childish mother, primarily because I recognized the terrible cost of her immaturity. For example, rather than face the truth about my father's incestuous violations, my mother fled. When I later found and confronted her, she said, in strangely archaic language, I'm not beholden to you." After this crisis, I was fortunate to find a feminist therapist whose suggested that I should continue to assert my own reality, despite my mother's denials. But it will only hurt my mother, I had argued, and it won't change her. The therapist had countered, "Let your mother's habit of denial take of her; you take care of yourself." What a relief Free of the burden of caring for my mother, I could finally speak the truth about father-daughter incest. Soon I began to publish essays on this topic. Writing in "Father-Daughter Incest in Hadley Irwin's Abby, My Love Repairing the Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse During the Adolescent Years,"5 I recommend that this young adult novel about father-daughter incest be taught in middle schools, recognizing that some parents may object. The claim that what goes on in families is private and "none of the school's business," a position advocated in The Phyllis Schia fly Report that she supports with quotes from the letters of angry parents, leads me to wonder if Schlafly objects to the use of journals in classrooms, not because they supposedly violate the family's "sacred right" of privacy, but out of fear of what children might reveal about their parents.

After my father divorced her in the early 1970s, my mother finally took action against him concerning his incestuous behavior. She wrote a letter to the John Birch Society, for which my father worked at the time, exposing him as a sexual abuser of children. When my sister first told me about this letter, I wondered whether my mother had, finally, recognized how the political views of the John Birch Society protected paternal power. After careful reflection, however, I realized that my mother's letter was not motivated by a desire to damage the Society-it was not a public attack-but rather by a desire for personal revenge against my father. Moreover, since by this time my sisters had already left home, her letter was clearly not motivated by a desire to protect her daughters. Perhaps my mother wanted revenge because she found my father's abandonment of her unbearable, especially because she had, for many years, sacrificed her daughters to keep him and to ward off his anger. What sort of motherhood is this? My mother's focus seemed to be on preserving unborn children rather than on caring for her already born children, a position advocated in a right-wing magazine, The New American, which carries this ad in its September 1997 issue: "ABORTION: AMERICA'S GREATEST CRIME. Human life is a precious gift from God. A country that legalizes the wholesale slaughter of its unborn children will surely one day have to answer to the Lord" (p. 28).

Yet my mother did care for her children, to the best of her ability. Tragically, however, my mother did not have the opportunity to examine her belief in sacrificial motherhood or the actions that her belief enabled. Rather than saying no to the demands of her children or friends, my mother would give and give and give until resentment set in, at which time she withdrew in angry silence. Yet, as Jessica Benjamin argues in The Bonds of Love, a mother's right to establish boundaries is rarely put forward as a model of her children's mental health, let alone of her own.

Society's expectation of mothers, that they sacrifice themselves to others, remains much the same even after three decades of struggle by the second wave of the women's movement. Another problem that remains unchanged is that girls become pregnant before they have the support, maturity, and financial ability to raise children. Whenever I read about teenage pregnancies, which certainly have not decreased since the women's movement, I wonder why. I believe that some girls, like my mother, choose to have babies to assure themselves of being loved; in other words, they are seeking love from a child rather than contemplating, as a mature woman would, how best to love and care for a child. Unfortunately, schools rarely offer young women the opportunity to read narratives about women who choose to become or not to become mothers primarily because, as Luttreli points out, "A sexual division of labor is built into the American educational system as its working assumption" (p. 91-92). In fact, just at the age girls enter puberty, they become invisible in the school curriculum. Such invisibility in the curriculum may be one reason my mother thought of my father as smart in school, while denying her own intelligence. In fact, my mother received no formal schooling in human relationships, including the role of mother, despite the fact that successful human relationships are so important to all of us. Even today, as Carol Gilligan points out, schools rarely encourage young people to explore the complexities of sustaining relationships with family, friends, or lovers.

Did my mother's inability to sustain friendships originate in early hurts? She didn't talk much about her adolescence, but like most girls, she probably began to experiment with relationships at about the age of 11 or 12. According to Gilligan, at this age girls often encounter the painful problem of inclusion and exclusion; however, such social knowledge is not represented in psychological studies. This knowledge is also, Gilligan says, 'disclaimed by the girls themselves, who often seem divided from their own knowledge, regularly prefacing their observations by saying, "I don't know"' (p. 14). As a result, girls often maintain connections that become unnecessarily self-limiting or destructive. Gilligan finds

A willingness often to sacrifice oneself for others in the hope that if one cared for others one would be loved and cared for by them: the central problem-feeling abandoned by others or feeling one should abandon oneself for others--was a problem of disconnection, and often led to desperate actions, desperate efforts at connection, which was one way in which some women spoke about their pregnancies. With their bodies women can create connection by having a child who will be with them and love them (p. 8-9).

Gilligan's study, published in 1990, focused on girls growing up at the end of the twentieth century, but I recognized this problem in my mother, an adolescent in the 1930s. The female protagonist of Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye, growing up in the 1950s, becomes pregnant for the same reason-in order to create the sense of connection she had been unable to achieve with others. Just at the moment that my mother, like other girls, most needed support from parents and teachers, she was forced to struggle with a problem that was invisible in the curriculum of the school. This invisibility of girls in the curriculum continues in the early twenty-first century.

Like my mother, whose schooling offered no opportunity for her to reflect on the consequences of choosing to become a mother, girls sometimes seek human connection by having a child who will stay with them and love them. Eventually, of course, children must betray this maternal dream: they leave home. Today, women have more options than my mother did; they can return to professions or jobs they may have left. Indeed, after most of her children were grown and after her divorce, my own mother took a job outside the home, but she could not earn enough to support herself and one son. Instead, my mother had been raised to expect that her children would one day provide her with a home. In fact, she tried to live with three different adult children, and failed. In each home, when conflicts arose, my mother would retreat in silence to her bedroom.

Surely my mother is not the only human being who lacked the ability to resolve conflicts, but most public schools do not teach lessons in conflict resolution. Nor do our schools teach courses in maternal thought-primarily because mothering is presumed to be instinctive. This stereotype of mothering is so persistent, as philosopher Sara Ruddick discovered while conducting research for her book, Maternal Thinking, that she found it necessary to assert the obvious, that the task of mothering requires thought. In fact, for many women "parenthood initiates an epistemological revolution" (Belenky, et al, p. 35), yet my mother was never taught to reflect-at least not in a systematic way-about mothering. My mother remained a "received knower," a woman who believed that truth came from experts.

If the task of mothering did not initiate an "epistemological revolution" in my mother, there is, nevertheless, evidence that she did ponder her maternal responsibilities. For example, when questioned by a psychiatrist about her knowledge of my father's sexual abuse of his daughters, my mother answered, or so she told me, that she was too busy feeding and clothing her children to do anything about it. In any event, she felt she had no control over her husband. This story indicates that she did attempt to determine which of her maternal responsibilities--the preservation, growth, and social acceptability of her children (the constituent features of maternal thinking, according to Ruddick)--should be her top priority and which would have to be sacrificed. While she fed and clothed us, I believe she decided that to preserve her children and assure their social acceptability, she would have to ignore the sexual abuse of her daughters. I am speculating, then, that my mother denied my father's incestuous violations because she could not stop him without making the abuse public, an act that might risk the social acceptability of her daughters. If I am right about my mother's unarticulated decision-making, her story illustrates Ruddick's point: "Frequently conflicts between strategies or between fundamental demands provoke mothers to think about the meaning and relative weight of preservation, growth, and acceptability. In quieter moments, mothers reflect upon their practice as a whole" (p. 23-24).

My mother did what she could, and I try not to blame her for what she could not do. Instead, I grieve for my mother, not only because she has been sharply criticized by her children for her failures as a mother, but also because she had no public identity. I became aware of my mother's lack of a public identity, or story, when, a few months after her private family funeral, one of my sisters tried to comfort me with a fantasy about our mother meeting up with Princess Diana and Mother Teresa, who also died that fall. My sister's fantasy began, "I see them on their journey; they've all stopped at a motel."

I collaborated in the fantasy. Recalling a photo of my mother trying on her sister's wedding dress, I said: "Now they've all taken a room together. I see them-they're taking turns trying on aunt Swany's wedding dress. They're talking and laughing, as loud as they want." "They don't give a hoot!" my sister added; "they're past all that." Yes, I thought, they are past all that-past the pain of marriage and motherhood, past the pain of public scrutiny. Then came the sad thought. Princess Diana and Mother Teresa were public figures; my mother was not. Even her closest neighbors did not know her.

In contrast to Princess Diana and Mother Teresa, who had carved out public identities for themselves-however limited by socio-historical circumstances-my mother had no identity, no story. This lack of an autobiography remains the condition of all women, according to Shoshana Felman "Trained to see ourselves as objects and positioned as the Other, estranged to ourselves, we have a story that by definition cannot be self-present to us, a story that, in other words, is not a story, but must become a story" (p. 14). As Felman points out, because most women learn to see themselves only through the eyes of the Other, they are actually storyless. Certainly, my mother did not have a storied self. Although she tried, she could not imagine a self outside the role of mother, a role defined by others, including her own children. Who would my mother have become if she had known that she had some choice in the matter? What would she have become if, for example, she had learned to challenge father-rule? Would she have found a way to save her daughters and herself? I will never know. And because it grieves me that my mother cannot tell her own story, I am telling it now. This is not a story to pass on; instead, it is a story that demonstrates the continuing need for feminist transformations of public schooling.


1 'I address some of the changes in "Where is she going, where are we going? The Girl as Site of Cultural Conflict in Joyce Carol Oates's The Model"' in The Girl, Ed. Ruth Saxton (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998: 1-20). This collection explores the experiences of contemporary girls from a wide range of backgrounds.

2 On the back side of the final page of this novel was an advertisement that enabled me to trace the title, Answer as a Man, as well as the publisher and date of publication: G. P. Putnam of New York, 1980.

3 Laughing With, or Laughing at the Young Adult Romance," appeared in the English Journal 7 & 6 (Oct. 1989): 50-60.

4 Narrating Mothers: Theorizing Maternal Subjectivities, which I co-edited with Maureen T. Reddy (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1991).

5 This essay became a chapter in my book Authoring a Life. A Woman's Survival in and through Literary Studies (Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 1998).

6 I explore this socio-psychological dimension of pregnancy in "Women as Image-Makers: An Integrated Approach to Teaching the Visual and Verbal Arts, with Margaret Atwood, Claude Breeze, Helen Lundeberg, Fred Marcellino, and Joyce Wieland" in Verbal and Visual Literacies, edited by Will Garrett-Pett and Donald Lawrence (Manitoba: Inkshed Publications, 1997: 106-29). As in Cat's Eye, female protagonists in Marilyn French's Her Mother's Daughter, Margaret Laurence's The Diviners and Sue Miller's Family Pictures become pregnant to create a sense of connection.

Works Cited

Armstrong, Louise. Rocking the Cradle of Sexual Politics: What Happened When Women Said Incest. Boston: South End Press, 1994.

Belenky, Mary Field, Blythe McVicker Clinchy, Nancy Rule Goldberger, and Jill Mattuck Tarule. Women's Ways of Knowing: The Development of Self. New York, NY: Basic Books, 1986.

Benjamin, Jessica. The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and the Problem of Domination. New York: Pantheon Books, 1988.

Chodorow, Nancy. The Reproduction of Motivation. Psychoanalysis and die. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978.

Fetterley, Judith. The Resisting Reader: A Feminist Approach to American Fiction. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978.

Gilligan, Carol Preface to Making Connections. Willard School Eds. Carol Gilligan, Nona P. Lyons, and Trudy J. Hanmer. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990. 6-29.

Grumet, Madeleine R. Bitter Milk: Women and Teaching. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1988.

Luke, Carmen, Ed. Feminisms and Pedagogies of Everyday Life Albany: State University of New York Press, 1988.

Luttreli, Wendy. School-Smart Working Class Women's Identify and Schooling New York: Routledge, 1997

Miner, Madonne M. "Guaranteed to Please: Twentieth-Century American Women's Bestsellers." Gender and Reading. Essays on Readers, Texts, and Contexts. Eds. Elizabeth A. Flynn and Patrocinlo P. Schweickart. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986. 187-211.

Phyllis Schiafly Report 18. 1 (June 1985) Alton, IL: Eagle Trust Fund.

Radway, Janice A. Reading die Romance: Women, Patriarchy and Culture. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984.

Rich, Adrienne. Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution. New York, New York, NY: W. W. Norton, 1976.

Ruddick, Sara. Maternal Thinking: Toward a Politics of Peace. Boston: Beacon, 1989.

Reference Citation: Daly, Brenda. (2000) "Weeping for the Mother: A Feminist Daughter Calls for a Change in the Public Schooling of Girls." WILLA, Volume 9, p. 17-21.

Being Female Being Male
Who's Talking?

I like wearing pink and playing with dolls.
I like getting dressed up in elegant dresses and being made to look like a princess…
…because I am a girl.

I like giving advice without judging.
I like helping people by showing them gentleness and compassion…
…because I am a friend.

I like giving all of myself until a task is complete.
I like playing all the positions and scoring the winning points in the last seconds of the game
… because I am and athlete.

I like building bridges for those who need them.
I like setting down rules and keeping people in line and on task…
…because I am a leader.

I like wiping tears and aiding a skinned knee or a broken heart.
I like knowing that I am part of a person's life and can never be replaced…
…because I am a mother.

I like cutting the path through discouragement and disappointment for those who follow.
I like being the example of how to keep your head up in defeat and not strut with victory…
…because I am a role model.

I like knowing that I can do anything and be wonderful at it.
I like having dreams, dealing in facts, never losing touch with my ideals…
…because I am a girl.

Bob Dandoy's Senior English class, Kams City High School, PA
in response to the Willa poster "Who's Talking"
by Radiya Rashid