Chapter

When Children Die

Susan Starr Sered

in Priestess, Mother, Sacred Sister

Published in print December 1996 | ISBN: 9780195104677
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199853267 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195104677.003.0005
When Children Die

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Most adult women devote a great amount of time and energy to childcare, and women's emotional ups and downs tend to be related primarily to family happenings, while men's tend to be connected to work. Not surprisingly, women's religious lives often reflect occurrences within the family. This chapter examines the religious implications of child death, arguing that it encourages women to ponder existential and theological questions. As part of that process, some women change their religious beliefs and affiliations. Although Western-style mother-love is not universal, child death is something with which women in all cultures must grapple, albeit in different ways. Encouraging motherhood, rejecting motherhood, and the loss of motherhood are important to women, and all of these themes surface in women's religions. The United States in the 19th century presents an excellent case study of the connection between motherhood and infant death and women's involvement in religion. It is also one of the best-documented examples of the cultural construction of mother-love and the intersection of mother-love and religion.

Keywords: United States; women; childcare; child death; religions; religious beliefs; motherhood; mother-love

Chapter.  6832 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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