Oddelek za zgodovino

Department of History

Motherhood and reproductive politics in 19th and 20th century

Motherhood and reproductive politics in 19th and 20th century

Code and title: J6-4602 Motherhood and reproductive politics in 19th and 20th century
Head:  Dr. Ana Cergol Paradiž
Research organisations in Slovenia: Filozofska fakulteta, Institut za novejšo zgodovino, ZRC SAZU 
Duration of the project: 1. 10. 2022-30. 9. 2025

The project applies the historical perspective to address the topic of motherhood and analyze the development of several interwoven or overlapping issues from the field of reproductive politics.  By setting its sights on the time period from the beggining of the 19th century to the end of 20th century, it seeks to cover the topics of motherhood (a), abortion (b), contraception (c) eugenics (d) and infertility (e).  Geographically, the project focuses on modern day Slovenia but also aims for a transnational perspective.  It mains to shed light on both public and private aspects of reproductive issues. Included in the analysis are institutional development, discourse, changes in legislature  and societal norms in relation with reproductive matters and motherhood on one hand and private strategies of individuals involved in reproductive practices on the other. Reproductive politics is highly dependent on social, generational, ethnical, racial, religious and class background of the individuals involved in reproductive practices. The same goes for sexual orientation. Thus, the project also addresses the matter using the intersectional approach.   

The application of various approaches (public and private perspective, intersectionality, transnationality) and because certain topics and time periods have been better researched in Slovenian historiography than others all lead to the segmentation of the project into 13 headings.  

The first heading, Cultural and social capital of unwed mothers, focuses on the 19th century circumstances that saw the stigma of unwed mothers come to the fore. This was also a time where institutional help for single mothers was in its infancy.  The second heading addresses the medicalization of childbirth, focusing on the midwives' profession and development of the first maternity hospitals leading up to World War II.  The third heading (fatherless society) sheds light on the various aspects of reproductive issues in the specific circumstances of World War I.  The fourth heading compares the ways motherhood was protected from a legal, social and medical standpoint after the first and the second world war.  The fifth heading focuses on addressing the reproductive body during World War II.  The sixth heading focuses on the experience of women who aborted during the rise of illegal abortions, that is to say between the 1920s and World War I.  The seventh heading addresses such abortion practices but focuses on the practitioners thereof.  The eighth heading seeks to address which social and political agents promoted the legalization of abortion and contraception on Slovenian territories. The focus is on the longer period between the latter decades of the 19th century up to the 1970s.  The ninth heading deals with reproductive (abortion) migration between Italy and Yugoslavia in the 1970s.  The tenth heading addresses eugenics after World War II.  The eleventh heading addresses ideologies and representations of motherhood and fatherhood in child rearing manuals, memoirs and art.  The twelfth heading yet again follows a broader chronological scope from the 1880s up to the end of the 20th century. It focuses on the specific topic of the working mother's rights, honing in on the legislature and practices regarding maternity leave.  The thirteenth heading addresses the history of infertility during the longer period spanning the beginning of the 19th century up to the end of the 1990s.