Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Elizabeth V. Faue


Transforming Motherhood examines the experiences of single mothers from the early 1970s until the mid-1980s. Because most accounts of single motherhood in these decades focused on single motherhood as the cause of social problems, most of the discourse about single motherhood is framed on the premise that single mothers are bad. The result of this assumption is to negate the single mother experience and uphold policies which try to limit single motherhood altogether. Transforming Motherhood seeks to redefine the problem of single motherhood by focusing on the issues from the perspective of single mothers. When single motherhood is examined through this lens, one finds that the underlying problems of lack of housing, inadequate child-care, gender inequality in the labor force and income, and inefficient welfare support are the actual causes of social problems associated with single motherhood. Furthermore, Transforming Motherhood questions the gendered notions of motherhood by studying single fatherhood in the same era, finding that single fathers who performed primary caregiver functions had much in common with their female counterparts. Single mothers in the 1970s were the pioneers of twenty-first century parenthood, facing the challenges which most parents, married or unmarried, experience today.

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