The Mechanization of Motherhood: Images of Maternity in Quebec Women Writers of the Quiet Revolution

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Susan K Kevra


In her short story “Le Peuplement de la Terre” (“Be Fruitful and Multiply”) Madeleine Ferron reveals the reality of married life for generations of women in Quebec whose lives were a constant cycle of pregnancy, childbirth and mothering. Like other Quebec women writers, such as Marie Claire Blais and Gabrielle Roy, Ferron turns on its head the myth of the tireless, dutiful and fulfilled mother, happy to serve God and country by producing offspring. All three of these writers depict motherhood in the period prior to the Quiet Revolution with disturbing images of childbearing automats, leaving us not with a glorified and tender view of motherhood, but rather a mechanization of mothering. Could the preponderance of such imagery in the works of women writers of this period point to attitudes in the medical establishment and in the social agenda of the first half of the 20th century? Using Ferron’s short story as the primary literary example – with parenthetical references to both Une Saison and Bonheur d’Occasion – I provide historical evidence for the increasingly mechanized nature of mothering in Quebec brought on by the ramping up of social, political, religious and economic pressures placed on women in the first part of the 20th century. The historical evidence will take the form of popular literature of health care professionals in Canada and Quebec during this period, as well as the role of the Cercle de Fermières, a kind of civic group for rural women of Quebec whose ideology of super-productive women is summed up in their motto, “Travaillons sans cesse!”

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How to Cite
Kevra, S. K. (2007). The Mechanization of Motherhood: Images of Maternity in Quebec Women Writers of the Quiet Revolution. AmeriQuests, 4(1).
Author Biography

Susan K Kevra, Vanderbilt University

Susan Kevra is a Senior Lecturer in French and Comparative Literature at Vanderbilt Literature.