Description from Amazon.com
In a society in which most women grow up thinking they will become mothers-and in which many women go to great lengths to make that desire a reality -- not having a child is often met with incredulity and scorn. But as the author of this thoughtful and meticulously researched examination of childlessness points out, childless women are part of an ancient and respectable cultural tradition that includes biblical matriarchs, celibate saints, and nineteenth-century social reformers. Revealing the story of her own decision not to have children, Laurie Lisle draws from history, literature, religion and sociology to challenge the stigma attached to the condition of childlessness-and to offer encouragement and support to those women who have made the difficult decision themselves.
Beginning with the difficult inner journey a woman faces before finally deciding or realizing she will not bear children, Without Child explores the myth of the childless woman's rejection of the maternal instinct. It also explores the childless woman's relationship to mothers and mothering, to her femininity, to men, to achievement, to her body, and to old age. Wide-ranging yet intimate, philosophical, yet clear-sighted, this important book does what no other has done before-presents childlessness in a multifaceted and positive light.
About the Author
Laurie Lisle is the author of Portrait of an Artist(1980), the bestselling biography of Georgia O'Keeffe, and Louise Nevelson: A Passionate Life (1990). She lives in Connecticut and Westchester County, New York.
Description from BarnesandNoble.com
In an extraordinary, unprecedented work, Lisle, herself childless by choice, looks to history, mythology, and religion to show that childless women are indeed part of a historical continuum. She explores the facts and fallacies behind childlessness and reminds us of how today's women can and do embrace their choice.
Description from The Reader's Catalog
The author weaves her own decision not to be a parent with cultural stereotypes regarding non-mothers and "...she points to the many ways a woman's childlessness, often perceived as selfish, can promote and nurture life-enhancing relationships"--Publishers Weekly
From the Publisher
Without Child brings scope and depth to a subject that has long been misunderstood. Weaving rich materials from history, literature, religion, and sociology with Laurie Lisle's own and other personal stories, this groundbreaking book does personal stories, this groundbreaking book does what no other has done before - presents childlessness in a multifaceted and positive light. Most women grow up thinking they will become mothers. And many do follow that path. But for those women who are willingly or unwillingly without children, childlessness is a way of life that many of them must constantly defend. Without Child explores the facts and fallacies behind childlessness, what it means for women and society, and reminds us of how women can and do embrace this choice. Lisle contends that childless women are part of an ancient and respectable cultural tradition that includes biblical matriarchs, celibate saints, and nineteenth-century social reformers. However, like other aspects of women's history, this tradition has been forgotten and, in the process, maligned. Without Child brings childless women out of obscurity and places them back in women's history. Without Child also challenges the stigma of childlessness by offering childless women the life-affirming story of themselves. Beginning with the difficult inner journey a woman faces before finally deciding or realizing she will not bear children, Without Child explores the myth of the childless woman's rejection of the maternal instinct. It also explores the childless woman's relationship to mothers and mothering, to her femininity, to men, to achievement, to her body, and to old age.
From the Critics
From Publisher's Weekly - Publishers Weekly
From Kirkus Reviews
Author Lisle (Louise Nevelson: A Passionate Life, 1990, etc.), now in her 50s, chose not to have children—she is, to use one of her favorite terms, a nullipara (the medical term for a woman without a child)—and found the decision subject to attack from within and without. "To this day, women without children . . . share a common stigma," she quotes one expert as saying, and Lisle goes on to note that such women are often portrayed as "damaged or deviant" or "just not nice enough." Lisle rallies the nulliparous troops by foraging through history for childless, though not always virgin, role models. Among them are the Hellenic goddesses Artemis and Athena, Queen Elizabeth I, Florence Nightingale, and Louisa May Alcott. Closer to home are what used to be called maiden aunts, energetic examples of "social mothers" who worked in orphanages and poorhouses or served as caretakers (and inspirations) for their nieces and nephews. Lisle explores the cycles of society's views of motherhood as well as more intimate issues like "fantasy children" and the still powerful link of sexuality to procreation. She examines the difficulties and rewards of living with men when bearing children is not a goal of the relationship and tries for a balanced view of how children can stimulate or thwart individual and artistic development. Because becoming a parent is so often equated with maturity, Lisle notes wryly, "those of us without children sometimes wonder if we are really grown-ups," but she avoids attacking women who do decide to have children. Personal anecdotes and interviews are woven into the historical research.
For women who make choices other than having children, some comfort and copious intellectual support, but despite Lisle's own emotional investment, surprisingly without ardor.
Table of Contents
1 Finding the Words, Discovering my Way 3
2 Examining the Choice, Why it Arises 33
3 Searching History, Remembering our Maiden Aunts 59
4 Understanding our Mothers, Enlarging Motherhood 86
5 Dreaming about a Child, Loving Childlikeness 115
6 Living with Men, Improvising the Way 140
7 Recognizing Our Womanhood, Redefining Femininity 167
8 Possessing Ourselves, Doing Our Work 195
9 Looking Ahead, Celebrating Our Lives 223
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