WAKE UP LITTLE SUSIE by Rickie Solinger

WAKE UP LITTLE SUSIE

Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe V. Wade

KIRKUS REVIEW

 In a thorough and important, if often tiresomely repetitive, study, Solinger (Women's Studies/Univ. of Colorado, Boulder) dissects the politics of female fertility in America from 1945-65, when the strikingly different treatments of middle-class white and poor black pregnant teenagers clearly reflected the demands of a racist, family-centered economy. Before WW II, Solinger reports, unwed mothers in the US were considered the products of defective, amoral environments-- permanent outcasts for whom no kind of rehabilitation was possible. After the war, she argues, a perceived societal need to produce as many white children in ``healthy'' male-headed families as possible, combined with new Freudian psychological theories and racist sociological assumptions concerning black sexuality, engendered a dualistic treatment of unwed pregnant women depending on the color of their skin. Whereas the ``market value'' of white babies enabled and even encouraged white single mothers to ``sacrifice'' their offspring for adoption in exchange for a second chance at respectability (usually after exile in a maternity home), ``unmarketable'' illegitimate black babies were considered the inevitable product of the ``natural'' black libido and were therefore left to be raised by their mothers, who were in turn treated as incorrigible breeders who gave birth to win more government benefits. With the ``sexual revolution'' (for whites) and ``population bomb'' (for blacks) of the late 60's and early 70's came the technological fixes of birth control and legalized abortion--though these steps toward female self-determination for women of all races were more a result, Solinger claims, of a slump in the white baby market and fear of black overpopulation than of societal concern for the fate of single mothers. Revelatory but regrettably dry work with repercussions for today.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-415-90448-X
Page count: 350pp
Publisher: Routledge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1992




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