On Taking Short Walks

By Ca Hoang

Today I woke up already overwhelmed by the things I had to do for the coming week. I felt horrible, and it was only 9 in the morning. After a while of staring at the items on my desk and occasionally glancing out the window, I decided to go for a walk. A change of atmosphere, I thought, would allow me to set aside my concerns for a moment and just be present. That was when I decided to dress up as I would on a pre-pandemic normal day and head out for a short walk around my apartment complex. I circled around the block twice, initially unsure if this would be helpful. My mind circled a bit thinking about my responsibilities, but as I strolled past the trees and the grass, I could not help but notice how they have grown old from the last time I saw them.  I started to observe my surroundings. As I took in the fresh air, I watched a squirrel jump onto a brick wall and swiftly make its way up. There were flowers I have never seen before and clovers that I never realized were around. There were a few people walking their dogs, but I was the only individual, perhaps somewhat suspiciously, lurking around. Recognizing these little things brought about an odd sense of tranquillity, but it also made me curious about whether others were experiencing walking in a similar manner as I did?

A study (Robinette et al., 2017) found that recreational walking and environmental attributes were closely related to socioeconomic status (SES) areas, that is low SES areas often had disadvantaged attributes with regards to neighborhood aesthetics, safety, and traffic to name a few. These factors in turn affect how people living in such areas engaged in walking as a leisure activity, which is expectedly less than in higher SES areas. The findings were not particularly surprising, but it made me aware once again that more needs to be done to address the SES gap. The difference in how recreational walking is perceived and experienced is yet one of the many fronts in which varying SES levels materializes in terms of health. Another study (Sugiyama et al., 2015) examined how neighborhood SES is associated with health outcomes. Generally, the researchers found that residents of higher SES residential areas suffered from fewer health problems than those living in lower-income areas. The intersection between the area that we live in and our health outcome is evident, but not always obvious.

As a public health student, I had the chance to learn more about health disparities in the United States, and that the discussion of health disparities is never complete without the mention of our zip codes. Yet, I was not expecting to connect what I have learned in my college courses to the simple act of self-care that I chose for myself today. Although the scenery I am surrounded with is not exceptional, it is more than enough to allow me to immerse myself in a temporary departure from the worries I have bundled up. My short walk felt safe and serene. I cannot say this would have been the case if I had taken a walk beyond the gates of my apartment complex. It would take implementing changes at a policy level to be able to provide a more conducive environment for everyone to comfortably engage in activities that not only support their physical but also their mental health. Just for today, I think it is worth being aware that such disparities exist so we can all participate in conversations that discuss how we might possibly help narrow health gap disparities in society.


Robinette, J., Charles, S., & Gruenewald, T. (2017). Neighborhood Socioeconomic Status and Health: A Longitudinal Analysis. Journal of Community Health, 42(5), 865–871. https://doi-org.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/10.1007/s10900-017-0327-6

Sugiyama, T., Howard, N., Paquet, C., Coffee, N., Taylor, A., & Daniel, M. (2015). Do Relationships Between Environmental Attributes and Recreational Walking Vary According to Area-Level Socioeconomic Status? Journal of Urban Health, 92(2), 253–264. https://doi-org.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/10.1007/s11524-014-9932-1

Mothering Myself – Perspectives On Exercise

By Ca Hoang

Ever since the beginning of summer, my roommates and I have committed to working out at least twice every week. On weekends, we push the living room tables aside, connect our laptop to the TV, and follow the home workout videos on YouTube. The initial dread of regularly drowning in sweat and enduring physical pain soon disperses and is replaced by the joy of engaging our muscles and building our stamina while occasionally laughing at each other’s random comments. I feel grateful that we are continuing this ritual despite the increasing workload we have as students with the semester underway. Exercising together has not only helped keep us active while cooped up at home but also gives us time to focus on ourselves: our bodies, our preferences, our limits. Here at MOM, I am hoping to reflect on some of the ways in which I mother myself as I continue to explore topics in my reproductive justice class with Holly Singh at USF. [My bio link for the museum internship program is here].

Yet, for many expecting mothers as well as mothers who have recently given birth, engaging in physical activity has become their “third shift”. A concept developed by Dworkin and Wachs (2004), the “third shift” refers to how mothers, besides their first working shift and second shift of tending to household matters and childcare, are also socially coerced into participating in fitness regimens in order to “erase physical evidence of motherhood” Mallox, DeLuca, and Bustad (2020). Through thematic analysis, the authors studied the causes and ways in which mothers engage in this cultural phenomenon. They determined five categories that identify mothers within this “third shift’, namely Marathon Moms, Family Fitness Focused Moms, Gym Goer Moms, Custom Coached Moms, and Internet Inspired Moms. The study notes how the media and consumer products have been tailored to pressure mothers to “regain control over their body” and examines the ways in which women’s bodies, post-birth, are conflated with “individual responsibility and moral fortitude”. Both studies also underline how socioeconomic status is entwined with these unrealistic expectations, as not all mothers are able to afford the resources needed to engage in the “third shift bodywork”.

Putting the findings into perspective, I cannot help but feel enraged by postpartum aesthetic ideals that are perpetuated by businesses to profit off of mothers’, and the ways in which they prevail. Rather than being able to prioritize individual well-being with potential health concerns, mothers are subjected to unnecessary and often impractical expectations of having a “good” body by society’s standards. Perhaps unknowingly, my friends and I are also influenced by societal expectations of how our bodies should look when we engage in our workouts as well as in our daily lives. In addition to that, the study prompted me to contemplate how physical activity is dictated by our socioeconomic status. My friends and I do not have the means to afford a personal trainer or special exercising equipment, but we at least have the luxury of space, time, and ability to engage in regular physical activity. This is a clear indication of the health disparities present in our society and yet, the shape of our body is still believed to be determined by how much control we have over ourselves and how responsible we are as individuals. As I enter the next workout session with my roommates, I will keep this in mind: as much as fitness should be promoted, it should never be a measure of one’s character.

Photo credit: Karolina Grabowska from Pexels


Maddox, C.B., DeLuca, J.R. and Bustad, J.J. (2020), Working a Third Shift: Physical Activity and Embodied Motherhood. Sociological Inquiry, 90(3) 603-624. https://doi.org/10.1111/soin.12297

Shari L. Dworkin, & Faye Linda Wachs. (2004). “Getting Your Body Back”: Postindustrial Fit Motherhood in Shape Fit Pregnancy Magazine. Gender and Society, 18(5), 610-624. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4149421

American Indians – A Time of Harvest & Hope?

By Carla Ferris

October is a harvesting celebration month. This October report describes some of my research and areas of interest on the topics of American Indians. Among them, are ethnobotany (in traditional acorn gathering) and Ecofeminism. Through my internship at MOM, I look forward to exploring the Indigenous lifestyles as I work toward the completion of my advanced degree in Public History at American Public University (full Bio online at Padlet). In particular, I also interested in the Chumash tribe, whose peoples populated central California until the establishment of the Spanish missions in the 1700s. Chumash tribe’s encounters are brief, the Indigenous information shared with Mother’s museum will come from extensive research.

My October report begins with a youtube video called, “A Conversation with Native Americans on Race”, which was suggested to me by museum director, Martha Joy Rose. This youtube video emphasizes American Indian identity and loss. The first interviewee remarked on how tribal populations were treated extremely poorly. Each of the interviewees had a slightly different perspective about terminology. But, based on the recommendations made, the term “American Indian” was preferred over Indigenous people. So, that is how I will henceforth make reference. According to his explanation, identity is valued, and “American Indian” refers to the culture (in general). Click on the image below if you would like to watch the video in its entirety.

Early attempts at Christian conversion aimed at removing the American Indian culture and identity have left deep scars. Further research about the California Chumash tribe and lifestyle provided historical depictions of life during the mission period. The Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa describes the missionary padres replacing the American Indian mother’s role as gathers. The padre’s lessons were instructions for farming and architecture building. Despite the padre’s efforts, the Chumash tribes continued their cultural traditions in festival celebrations and herbal trades. It is important to note, that American Indians have been disproportionately affected during COVID- with extremely high mortality rates.

In addition to the ongoing devastation of COVID, California (and now Colorado) wildfires have been burning at unprecedented levels. I accessed a segment about Native American cultural burns that historically encouraged diverse natural habitat and helped to control forest fires. I was also able to watch Kat Anderson’s “Tending the Wild”, a television documentary about the practice of motherhood acorn gathering traditions. The mothers’ role in the American Indian’s acorn gathering traditions is joyful.  As if to counter the great obstacles currently facing not only Native Americans but all Americans in 2000, Kat places emphasis on Indian gathering activity as a heartful participation in cultural mindfulness. Her contributions in “Tending the Wild” encourage this tradition as well as ecological knowledge. She states, “these practices are essential if we are to completely utilize the living sustainable challenge”.

This connects to Kim Anderson’s article “Giving Life to the People”, which describes the spiritual aspects of Motherhood. She describes Native American Mother’ beliefs in the ability to maintain life’s creations. Kim cites Paula Guen Allen’s scholarly, spiritual tradition descriptions, stating “There is a relationship between creative thinking and the power of mothering.” She continues, “Mothers are connected to the original creation and the work in progress for a sustainability aspect.” Kim highlights this concept with anthological and petrograph studies and evidence. The Native Americans truly believe the Earth is the Mother of all life. She writes” Therefore, Women’s power is viewed in the ability to create and nurture.” The book featuring Kim Anderson’s essay is available at the Museum of Motherhood library (Maternal Theory, Essential Readings, edited by Andrea O’Reilly).

Kathryn Mile’s “Ecofeminism” and Mary Mellor’s “Feminism & Ecology” articles provide Ecofeminism descriptions and views. Kathryn describes ecological feminism as a branch of feminism that examines the connections between women and nature. This is a world view that respects organic processes, holistic connections, and the merits of intuition and collaboration. These protectives illustrate ecofeminism connecting both a commitment to the environment and an awareness of the associations made between women and nature. Mary Mellor agrees with these Ecofeminism concepts. She highlights, “Ecofeminism brings together the feminist elements and green movements.” She continues, “Ecofeminism, a ‘new term for an ancient wisdom’s that arose from various feminist, peace and ecology movements”. In the early 1980s, Francoise D’Eaubonne first used the Ecofeminism term. This gained popularity in protests against environmental destruction.

During my eco-feminism and acorn research, I found Acorn Recipes, which are close to the Native American bread-making traditions. I would say many of these have been modernized and do not look authentic, but I would still like to experiment with the recipe sometime. Actual acorn flour can be quite bitter and requires several soakings before pounding the material into pulp. Here is a link to more information about how to do that [LINK].

Mix cornmeal with cold water, add boiling water and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add sale and butter and cool to lukewarm. Soften yeast in lukewarm water. Add remaining ingredients to corn mixture, along with yeast. Knead to a stiff dough. Dough will be sticky. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk. Punch down, shape into two loaves, cover and let rise until doubled in bulk. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.


Acorn Recipes http://www.thepeoplespaths.net/NAIFood/acorns.htm

Anderson, M. Kat. “Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources.” Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2006.

Kat Anderson. “Tending the Wild.” https://www.kcet.org/shows/tending-the-wild/episodes/cultural-burning

Anderson, Kim. “Giving Life to the People: An Indigenous Ideology of Motherhood.” In Maternal Theory: Essential Readings, edited by O’REILLY ANDREA, 761-81. BRADFORD, CANADA: Demeter Press, 2007.

California Oaks http://californiaoaks.org/

California Wildlife Foundation Newsletters. http://californiaoaks.org/take-action/

Chumash History. Website: https://www.santaynezchumash.org/chumash-history

Ethnobotany https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/ethnobotany/index.shtml

Herb Article Ca. Poppy, Rebecca https://www.rebeccasherbs.com/pages/herb-article-br-california-poppy

Kathryn Miles. “Ecofeminism.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. October 2018. https://www.britannica.com/topic/ecofeminism

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa http://missionsanluisobispog1.weebly.com/tribes.html

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa https://missionsanluisobispo.org/

Mellor, Mary. Introduction to “Feminism & Ecology.” New York University Press,1997, p.1

Youtube Video: A conversation with Native Americans on Race. https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=siMal6QVblE

Women and Life on Earth website. http://www.wloe.org/Women-from-Planet-Diversi.556.0.html  

Featured photo credit: https://www.loc.gov/item/2013631567/


By, Srilagna Majumdar

In America, the month of October is the month of witches – the evil, the cruel, and the ugly. The Museum of Motherhood has hundreds of books in its collection, intended to educate, elucidate, and empower. How have women been targeted as witches throughout history, since the middle ages and what can we learn? Let’s look at how Barbara Ehrenreich sheds light upon this subject in her book “Witches, Midwives and Nurses: A history of women healers “ :

The age of witch-hunting spanned more than four centuries in its sweep from Germany to England. Witches represented a political, religious, and sexual threat to the Churches, as well as to the State. In the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, there were thousands of executions- usually burnings at the stake- in Germany, Italy, and other countries- an average of 600 a year for certain German cities. The witch hunts represented a deep-seated social phenomenon that goes far beyond the history of medicine. The most virulent witch hunts were associated with periods of great social upheaval shaking feudalism at its roots- mass peasant uprisings and conspiracies, the beginning of capitalism, and the rise of Protestantism. In some areas, witchcraft represented a female lead peasant rebellion. Unfortunately, the witch herself- poor and illiterate- did not leave us her story. It was recorded, like all history, by the educated elite so that today we know the which only through the eyes of her persecutors. 

While one theory suggests that witch-craze was an epidemic of mass hatred and panic, another interpretation holds that witches themselves were insane. But, in fact, the witch-crazes were neither a lynching party nor a mass suicide by hysterical women. The witch-hunts were well-organized campaigns, initiated, financed and executed by Church and State. Anyone failing to report a witch faced both communication and a long list of temporal punishments.

Who were the witches, then, and what were their “crimes” that arouse such vicious upper-class suppression? First, witches are accused of every conceivable sexual crime against men. Second, they are accused of being organized. Third, they are accused of having magical powers affecting health- of harming, but also of healing. Witch-healers were often the only general medical practitioners for people who had no doctors and no hospitals and who were bitterly affected by poverty and disease. But witch-hunters Kramer and Sprenger had to write, “ No one does more harm to a Church than midwives”. Male upper-class healing under the auspices of the Church was acceptable, female healing as a part of a peasant subculture was not (Pages 7,8,10,14).

The witch healers methods posed a great threat to the Church, since the witch relied on her senses, and on trial and error, cause and effect. She didn’t need any faith or doctrine- this hit the dogma of the Church very hard. This scared the orthodox authoritative Church and compelled them to curb the potential of these women. So, now you know why some regressive and mean minds refer to intelligent, brave, and proud women as “witches” every now and then, even today!

Srilagna Majumdar, India
Included in the MOM Art Annex Library

The Journal of Mother Studies Turns 5 Years Old: 2020 Online

How is everyone? Are you hanging in there? I hope so! This has been an unusual year, on so many levels. 

The MOM Art Annex is in quiet hibernation as well, as we lower our heads, hunker down, and try to survive. At the same time, many of us are raising our voices to call out systemic racism, social problems, and inequities as we identify them.
Through it all, submissions to the journal came rolling in as we prepared for our fifth year of digital humanities publications with research papers, book reviews, and some artworks. Thematically, the submissions were on diverse topics.
I thought about putting the journal aside this year. But, Patricia English Schneider’s piece on “Mourning Mother” was deeply moving and Olatunbosun Samuel Adekogbe’s submission about “The Cultural Value of Motherhood” in Jimi Solanke’s Music (in Africa), compelled. I thought, perhaps curious scholars need to see this information?
Finally, at the last moment, I was contacted by Samantha Kolber whose poetry book titled Birth of a Daughter was recently published by Kelsay Books. A review was quickly organized. There are multiple papers worth exploring here, including Kimberly Hillier and Christopher Greig’s later submission titled Mothering During Covid. So, we organized editors, blind reviewers, and connected them to the distinguished authors represented here.
According to the way I see it, we need to support each other, celebrate each other, and keep writing. While this year’s journal is unconventional, it is certainly a powerful read. I’m deeply honored to have been able to contribute to the dissemination of these pieces. It is my sincerest wish that you and your family stay strong and healthy in light and love. [Read JourMS online here].
[Read the full Newsletter here].
 Martha Joy Rose

October Art by Aster Woods


By Srilagna Majumdar

During everyday conversations and discourses, we come across labels given to mothers that are burdened by stereotypes and fraught with sky-touching expectations limited by narrow definitions. Aimed at the welfare of others, this focus is seldom targeted towards women’s wellbeing. There have been so less frequent moments when fathers, and children, or people, in general, look at mothers as separate and independent human beings. Writing as an Indian student, engaged in feminist studies, it appears that the stereotypes that mothers are often corralled into can be organized into three main categories: Mothers as (a) primary caregivers, (b) teachers or role models, and (c) household workers or homemakers (Tessier, Gosselin, 2018). It would be safe to say that these categories are most often applied to biological mothers.

As a college student, contemplating the subject of motherhood, it appears that media depictions as well as the general tenure of social expectation dictate women caregivers must give exclusive priority to their children. Certainly, babies require much care and mothers are often the primary sources for expressions of love as well as providers of food and shelter. Being a good caregiver involves balancing many roles, including that of nurturer and a disciplinarian (as required). These qualities are highlighted in society with the expectation that mothers put everything on hold to be more available to their children and devote all of themselves to motherhood as the primary obligation. This belief reflects a deep internalization of an intensive mothering ideology. The mothers I know see themselves as purveyors of wisdom, important teachers- not exclusively in the academic sense- but as a source of information about how to get along in the world, which contemporary women are often encouraged to do.

But, within the home, many mothers are managers of the household. Women who are mothers are seen by some to embrace this duty to family almost exclusively. Many of the mothers I studied perceived themselves as very loyal toward their families. The chores associated with maintaining a stable home were a signifier of demonstrated loyalty. While divorced mothers might be perceived as failures: cowards, frivolous, weak for not persevering or enduring in the marriage (even whoreish, and easy-prey for free sex), promiscuous, irresponsible, selfish, not trustworthy, lacking courage, incapable of maintaining a family, alone and without protection, disrespectful of God’s rules, and without moral values – a heavy burden to contemplate, indeed (Aneja, Vaidya, 2016).

Outside the home, working mothers, portrayed by the media, or judged generally through a negative lens by society as well, are accountable not only to themselves but to the public at large. It is presumed that a mother, who works outside the home, would be incapable of managing the necessities of her children. If a mother keeps her child in the custody of a nanny, or a crèche, while she goes for work, society apprehends that it will affect the upbringing of the child and that full responsibility of any perceived outcome, is to be taken on solely by the working mother.

As in the previous two examples, mothers have a difficult time performing in the “correct” manner expected of them. Deviations from perceived “norms” are prone to accountability and assessment. Lesbian mothers, i.e. same-sex mothers are viewed as unfit, by society, in cases that I have read about or heard of. These negative conceptions appear particularly rooted in religious doctrine. Stereotypes regarding lesbian mothers as not normal are promoted by entrenched beliefs that children should be raised by a mother and a father, not by two mothers. The argument for this lack of a male parent, doctrine asserts, might confuse children, especially regarding their own sexual preference when they become teenagers (Tessier, Gosselin, 2018). Participants of interviews conducted by Vadiya, in 2016, reported different cultural norms influencing their attitudes. This included coming from a conservative Catholic religious background, uncontested and unchecked concepts of machismo, and the fact that interviewees did not know any lesbian parents personally, further polarizing them from actions outside of hegemonic ideals and further entrenching erroneous assumptions about “good” parenting.

The themes of deficiency and lack, good and bad mothers, the burden of care, and the valorization of the mothering role that have been explored here acquire a new dimension when we take into account a different kind of embodiment, namely, disability. When the mother in question is a disabled woman, the discourse of motherhood becomes even more complicated. Sexuality, conjugality, and motherhood are associated with normative, desirable, fertile bodies, whereas the disabled body is regarded as defective, undesirable, and thus, devalued (Aneja, Vaidya,2016). Motherhood denotes caregiving, while disability suggests a person in need of care herself, and thus, being unfit to assume the caring role for another, especially of one as vulnerable as an infant. We can certainly see how difficult it is for mothers to avail themselves of additional scrutiny.

Disability has historically been viewed as a ‘problem’ or aberration in need of fixing or remediation, suggesting that something is missing or lacking. The personhood and agency of women who are deemed ‘the other’ on account of their bodily differences are denied in the context of their reproductive needs and rights. Women with disabilities are regarded either as asexual beings incapable of becoming sexual companions or as hyper-sexual and unregulated ones (Aneja, Vaidya, 2016). In some cases, disabled mothers were abandoned by husbands, who later got married to able-bodied women at the behest of the man’s family. Many times, it is revealed that disabled mothers experience violence within the family, both emotional as well as severe physical violence in some cases. It can be imagined, how these disabled mothers also have to explain to their children why they can’t participate in an activity, attend a field trip, or use the same door [as their children do]. They might even have to spend a great deal of time explaining themselves or educating other people, and that can wear a person down (Scroll,2018).

In most societies, the predominant image of the family is represented by a middle-class, first-marriage nuclear family with two heterosexual parents, including a working father, a stay-at-home mother, and biological children (Routledge, “Marriage and Family review”, 2018). Social institutions, including mass media, language, legal systems, and religion, convey the message that this family configuration is the norm. As a student who wants to arrive at a finer feminist perspective, I feel this is how agency over the body and consent for the things done to it are appropriated by medical, legal, and social practices that challenge the very personhood and humanity of the mothers who want to break away from the society generated idea of how a mother should be.


A Literature Review of Cultural Stereotypes Associated with Motherhood and Fatherhood, Sophie-Claire Valiquette-Tessier, Julie Gosselin, Kristel Thomassin, 2018

EMBODYING MOTHERHOOD-Perspectives from Contemporary India, Anu Aneja and Shubhangi Vaidya, Yoda Press, 2016

‘Your priority is your baby’: Why does India have a culture of demonizing working mothers?, Article by Scroll, 2018

Edited by M. Joy Rose

About Srilagna:

Srilagna Majumdar is a student of History, third Year in Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India. She is a keen student of social sciences and wants to pursue her future in Museology. She is currently working with 1947 Partition Archive and Stanford University for a project regarding interviewing Partition witnesses. She is also a Digital Content writer and editor at the same Archive. She wrote papers on Redefining gender roles to get a wider perspective of gender relations in the Global South. Srilagna Majumdar lives in Kolkata, West Bengal, India. She is also working for developing the proper ways of editing Partition witness’s stories and preparing them for digitization. She is also working with the Partition Museum to archive Partition history and find how women were affected during the same. She interns with Daak, a nonprofit organization for promoting lesser-known artworks and artists of South Asia. Srilagna is also the research authenticator at India Lost and Found, a heritage conservation initiative by Amit Pasricha. She is an oral histories and research intern at Kashmir Untold, an initiative to archive stories of Kashmiri migrants and is also working for exploring various aspects of motherhood in society and trying to arrive at a finer feminist lens by being an intern at the Museum of Motherhood, Florida.