Books (1998 - 2010)


Rocking the Cradle

"Andrea O'Reilly provides a much-needed antidote to the popularized misconception that feminists are “against” mothers. A careful and comprehensive engagement with theoretical issues, significant texts and personal experience, Rocking the Cradle is certain to become essential reading for anyone wishing to think through the maze of motherhood as social institution and mothering as lived experience."
- Meredith W. Michaels, Professor of Philosophy, Smith College and co-author with Susan J. Douglas of The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined All Women (Free Press 2004)

"True to its name, O’Reilly’s collection "rocks"—and not just the cradle, but also the foundation of patriarchy’s rigid rules for mothering. This highly readable, sweeping, and provocative volume offers a broadly appealing model of the road to empowerment through the practices of feminist mothering."
- Sharon Hays, Streisand Chair of Gender Studies, University of Southern California

"This is an important book. Andrea O’Reilly makes a powerful case for the necessity of empowered mothering, and anyone who has experienced motherhood as a radicalizing event in her own life will recognize herself in this nuanced, thoughtful discussion of what it means to be a feminist and a mother in the twenty-first century."
- Andrea Buchanan, author of Mother Shock and editor of Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined

"By tracking the parallels between the author’s evolution as a feminist scholar and her changing experience of motherhood, Rocking the Cradle offers a unique and important contribution to the field of maternal studies. The range of works included in this collection is particularly noteworthy for revealing the challenges and complexities of theorizing a working model of empowered mothering in Western society."
- Judith Stadtman Tucker, Editor, The Mothers Movement Online

Toni Morrison and Motherhood: A Politics of the Heart
(SUNY, 2004)

“…it serves as a sort of annotated bibliography of nearly all the major theoretical work on motherhood and on Morrison as an author … anyone conducting serious study of either Toni Morrison or motherhood, not to mention the combination, should read [this book] ... O’Reilly’s exhaustive research, her facility with theories of Anglo-American and Black feminism, and her penetrating analyses of Morrison’s works result in a highly useful scholarly read.”
- Literary Mama

“By tracing both the metaphor and literal practice of mothering in Morrison’s literary world, O’Reilly conveys Morrison’s vision of motherhood as an act of resistance.”
- American Literature

"Motherhood is critically important as a recurring theme in Toni Morrison's oeuvre and within black feminist and feminist scholarship. An in-depth analysis of this central concern is necessary in order to explore the complex disjunction between Morrison's interviews, which praise black mothering, and the fiction, which presents mothers in various destructive and self-destructive modes. Kudos to Andrea O'Reilly for illuminating Morrison's "maternal standpoint" and helping readers and critics understand this difficult terrain. Toni Morrison and Motherhood is also valuable as a resource that addresses and synthesizes a huge body of secondary literature."
- Nancy Gerber, author of Portrait of the Mother-Artist: Class and Creativity in Contemporary American Fiction

"In addition to presenting a penetrating and original reading of Toni Morrison, O'Reilly integrates the evolving scholarship on motherhood in dominant and minority cultures in a review that is both a composite of commonalities and a clear representation of differences."
- Elizabeth Bourque Johnson, University of Minnesota

Toni Morrison

Edited Books

21st Century Motherhood

Twenty-First-Century Motherhood: Experience, Identity, Policy, Agency

Andrea O'Reilly

Columbia University Press, August 2010

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Textual Mothers/ Maternal Texts: Motherhood in Contemporary Women's Literatures

Andrea O'Reilly and Liz Podnieks

Wilfred Laurier Press, 2010

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Textual Mothers

From the Personal to the Political

Andrea O'Reilly (Editor),
Silvia Caporale Bizzini (Editor)


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From the Personal to the Political seeks to analyze the autobiographical perspective of mothering and motherhood not solely in terms of inner, emotional and private narratives, but also showing how autobiographical writing gives voice to the historically determined experience of mothering and makes visible the importance of mothers as resilient, political agents. The volume is divided into two sections. The first focuses on what may be termed 'autobiographical theory'. The contributors in this section use their life stories to theorize upon a social maternal perspective such as that as single mothers, mothers of children with disabilities, mothers of older children, and mothers of bi-racial children. The focus of the second section is on autobiographical narratives and includes readings of memoirs, slave narratives, poetry, and fiction. The essays in this volume position autobiography, in both theory and fiction, as a profoundly cultural and political text that makes social change possible.

Edited by Andrea O'Reilly

Demeter Press, October 2009

The year 2009 marks twenty years since the publication of Sara Ruddick’s monumental text Maternal Thinking: Toward a Politics of Peace, a book that is regarded, along with Adrienne Rich’s Of Woman Born, as the most significant work in maternal scholarship and the new field of Motherhood Studies. What made Maternal Thinking so life-changing and ground-breaking was that it foregrounded what all mothers know: motherwork is inherently and profoundly an intellectual activity and theorized the obvious: Mothers think. This volume, published to commemorate and celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the publication of Maternal Thinking, explores the impact and influence this book has had on maternal scholarship and revisits what motherhood scholars regard as the pivotal insights of Ruddick’s text: motherwork is a practice that gives rise to and is informed by “maternal thinking”; mothering, as a practice, is composed of and characterized by particular characteristics; this work is not defined by or reducible to gender; and maternal thinking makes possible a politics a peace. The volume includes 17 contributors from disciplines as diverse as anthropology, sociology, literature, philosophy, education, women’s studies and psychology and features a conversation with and an epilogue by Sara Ruddick.

I was transformed by Sara Ruddick’s Maternal Thinking when it was first published. Now we have a stunning collection of essays by writers, social scientists, philosophers and activists illustrating how profound an effect the very idea of ‘maternal thinking,’ in all its implications, has had on them. I was educated and moved, reminded and expanded, by the writers whose work fills this crucial collection".
Jane Lazarre, author of The Mother Knot and Beyond The Whiteness of Whiteness

Maternal Thinking

Feminist Mothering

Feminist Mothering
Andrea O'Reilly

SUNY, 2008

Feminist Mothering goes beyond critiques of patriarchal motherhood to locate and investigate feminist maternal practices as sites for women’s empowerment and social change. The contributors see “feminist mothering” as practices of mothering that seek to challenge and change the norms of patriarchal motherhood that are limiting and oppressive to women. For many women, practicing feminist mothering offers a way to disrupt the transmission of sexist and patriarchal values from generation to generation. Contributors explore the ways in which women integrate activism, paid employment, nonsexist childrearing practices, and non-child-centered interests in their lives—and other caregivers into their childrens’ lives—in order to challenge existing societal inequality and create new egalitarian possibilities for women, men, and families.

“Andrea O’Reilly has assembled a collection of essays that explores the challenges of twenty-first-century motherhood in relation to the legacies of Second Wave feminism. With intelligence and passion, its contributors offer a variety of nuanced perspectives on women’s efforts to act simultaneously on behalf of children and on behalf of themselves. Taken together, these essays remind us that carework—the work that mothers do—must be recognized as foundational to our political and personal well-being.” — Meredith W. Michaels, coauthor of The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined All Women

Contributors include Aimee E. Berger, Kristin G. Esterberg, Fiona Joy Green, Shirley A. Hill, Amber E. Kinser, Colleen Mack-Canty, Shelley Martin, Kecia Driver McBride, Janice Nathanson, Gisela Norat, Andrea O’Reilly, Pegeen Reichert Powell, Michele Y. Pridmore-Brown, Sarah Trimble, Judith Stadtman Tucker, and Sue Marie Wright.

Maternal Theory: Essential Readings
(Demeter Press, 2007)

Motherhood studies trailblazer Andrea O’Reilly has done it again! Maternal Theory provides readers with a much-needed single anthology of the essential readings on theories of motherhood from the past three decades. Folks just discovering the field of maternal theory, and those well versed in feminist theory and theories of motherhood, will find this collection invaluable. Scholars and students alike will broaden their knowledge and their libraries with this indispensable collection of texts on mothers, mothering and motherhood. It’s a must read for all, and essential for anyone teaching in the area.
- Fiona Joy Green, PhD., Chair, Women’s and Gender Studies Department, University of Winnipeg

“We have been hungry for a text that unfolds mother theorizing as both evolutionary and revolutionary. O’Reilly lays out in this reader a sumptuous feast. A broad array of maternal theory staples and delicacies--more than you can digest in one sitting.”
- Amber E. Kinser, Ph.D., Director, Women’s Studies, East Tennessee State University

Maternal Theory Review by Carla Atherton in Cahoots Magazine.

Maternal Theory Review by Cathering Rowland (reprinted online with generous permission of Catherine Rowland and Network: the Journal of Women, Word, Spirit/Catholic Women's Network).

Maternal Theory Essential Readings

You Can get There From Here
25 Years of Bridging Courses for Women at York University

In 1991, York University initiated a unique and innovative pre-university "Bridging" Program designed and taught for women. Over two thousand women have graduated from the program, many of them going on to pursue post-secondary and graduate degrees. This book celebrates the twenty-fifth anniversary of this program. The book is divided into three sections. The first section looks at the history of the program while the second section examines its pedagogy and curriculum. In the third section, thirty-six graduates recall their classroom experiences and the paths they have traveled since completing the program. This volume bears witness to the profound and lasting difference education makes in the lives of women.

"York University’s School of Women’s Studies has pioneered an innovative and socially significant educational outreach program offering mature women a way to qualify for entry into post-secondary education. In a series of passionate personal reflections by instructors and students, Ruby Newman and Andrea O’Reilly trace the origin of the Bridging Program and detail the transformative nature of this experience for both instructors and students. The courage, enthusiasm and dedication of these women shines through their narratives."
- Nancy Mandell, Associate Professor and Chair, Sociology Department, Faculty of Arts, York University

"This book is a testimony to the remarkable tenacity, courage and hunger for education of the many women who have entered the woman-positive learning community of the York University Bridging Program for Women. The women’s essays profoundly document the ripple effect of an intentionally applied feminist pedagogical framework that set out to actualize empowerment as a core foundational learning outcome through fluency with critical thinking and writing, academic literacy, orality, and self-reflexivity. The book also celebrates the legacy of a profoundly sustained investment of pedagogy, care, effort, vision and dedication by the program’s founders, staff, and its many teachers.
- Kathryn Alexander, Writing-Intensive Learning Office, Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University

"Much to tell, much to teach, a remarkable book recording women’s transformative work for women in a higher educational setting."
- Dorothy E. Smith, Professor Emerita, University of Toronto and author of The Everyday World as Problematic and Mothering for Schooling.

Motherhood: Power and Oppression
(edited by Marie Porter, Patricia Short & Andrea O'Reilly)
(Women's Press, 2005)

In feminism, the institution of mothering/motherhood has been a highly contested area in how it relates to the oppression of women. As Adrienne Rich articulated in her classic 1976 book Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution, although motherhood as an institution is a male-defined site of oppression, women's own experiences of mothering can nonetheless be a source of power. This volume examines four locations wherein motherhood is simultaneously experienced as a site of oppression and of power: embodiment, representation, practice and separation.

Motherhood includes psychological, historical, sociological, literary and cultural approaches to inquiry and a wide range of disciplinary perspectives - qualitative, quantitative, corporeal, legal, religious, fictional, mythological, dramatic and action research. This rich collection not only covers a wide range of subject matter but also illustrates ways of doing feminist research and practice.

Motherhood: Power and Oppression

Mother Matters

Mother Matters: Motherhood as Discourse and Practice
Edited by Andrea O'Reilly
(ARM Press, 2004)

This volume, playing upon the double entendre of the word "Matters," examines the substance and significance of motherhood. As motherhood is the subject matter of the volume, the volume similarly examines how motherhood matters - is of importance - to women and society more generally. In considering these matters the volume examines motherhood both as it is represented and lived. In particular, the volume looks at how the contemporary ideology of good motherhood is represented in diverse popular discourses - film, popular literature, children's fiction, magazines, judicial rulings, and parenting books. Likewise, it examines how the messy and muddled realities of motherhood are camouflaged by the normative discourse of motherhood and how, in turn, practices of mothering - in all their complexity and diversity - challenge the denial of such difficulty and difference in the normative discourse.

The eighteen chapters in this volume were selected from the first ten issues of the Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering. "Mother Matters" was published to celebrate the publication of ARM's tenth journal issue and to affirm that, indeed, mothers and mothering do matter!

Mother Outlaws: Theories and Practices of Empowered Mothering
(Women's Press, 2004)

"Mother Outlaws makes an enormously important contribution to Women's Studies, a field that tends to neglect the topic of mothering or to present it with such ambivalence that it is a wonder college men and women go on to have families…. This book provides abundant evidence that there can be such a thing as empowered mothering, thereby instilling optimism in today's young men and women."
-Dr. Robbie Pfeufer Kahn is Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Vermont. Dr. Pfeufer Kahn's book Bearing Meaning: The Language of Birth (University of Illinois Press) won The 1997 American Sociological Association's Jesse Bernard Award.

Mother Outlaws

From Motherhood to Mothering

From Motherhood to Mothering: The Legacy of Adrienne Rich's Of Woman Born (SUNY, 2004)

“…the essays are diverse in discipline and tone.”
- University of Toronto Quarterly

"I can hardly imagine a more relevant or more universal subject. O'Reilly examines not only how Rich's book changed scholars' views of motherhood, but also how it changed their voices - adding a chorus of personal insight to their professional and academic research findings."
- Mary Kay Blakely, author of American Mom: Motherhood, Politics, and Humble Pie

Mothers and Sons: Feminism, Masculinity and the Struggle to Raise our Sons
(Routledge Press 2001)

...this book is both informative and evocative..
- Journal of Personal and Social Relationships, October 2002

Mothers and Sons

Mothers and Daughters

Mothers and Daughters: Connection, Empowerment and Transformation
(Rowman and Littlefield, 2000)

"...provocative volume. ...worthy of classroom interrogation. Offers nuanced and rich ways of considering the complexities of the mother-child relationship. The diversity and inclusivity that punctuate the book offer necessary depth and varying perspectives to classes and courses that privilege gender, class, race, ethnicity, and sexuality."
- NWSA Journal

"A splendid collection that resoundingly confirms the centrality of mother-daughter relationships to women's well-being and feminist politics. Recognizing the perspectives of adult women as well as girls, the editors are committed to strengthening sturdy reliable connections between mothers and daughters without denying the forces that drive them apart. Offering a rich array of stories from different social classes, ethnicities, races, religions, sexualities, and nations, Mothers and Daughters is a welcome addition to ongoing feminist revisions of an intimate yet politically resonant relationship."
- Sara Ruddick, author of Maternal Thinking: Toward a Politics of Peace

"I was excited to find a collection in which authors from various cultures go beyond praise and blame to illuminate the positive potential of the mother-daughter connection in the face of cultural impediments. The variety of formats and perspectives add further depth and new insights."
- Miriam M. Johnson, University of Oregon

Redefining Motherhood: Changing Identities and Patterns
(Second Story Press, 1998)

"This book is alive with the voices of mothers and daughters. It delineates issues in fresh and engaging ways and it models reflection ... an engrossing read and an excellent course text."
-Canadian Woman Studies/les cahiers de la femme

“Redefining Motherhood is a welcome, lively and challenging addition to the ongoing feminist conversation about mothering. Eighteen powerful essays challenge the familiar cultural image of the “good” mother. Showing how constricting and damaging that stereotype is, the contributors replace an unusual, narrow ideal with the complexity and diversity of real mothers’ lives. Drawing from their broad range of backgrounds and experiences, the writers show the many and varied ways in which women are transforming motherhood.”
- Maureen Reddy, co-author of Narrating Mothers: Theorizing Maternal Subjectivity and co-editor of Mother Journeys: Feminists Write about Mothering

“An important and welcome contribution to the growing scholarship on mothering.”
- Nancy Mandell, Director, Centre for Feminist Research, York University

Redefining Motherhood