Making Modern Maternity: Special Issue CFP

We invite submissions to a special journal issue that we would like to propose to Medical Humanities on the topic “Making Modern Maternity.” Our aim for the special issue will be to explore the ways in which pregnancy, childbirth, and maternal experiences have been constructed as “modern” (or not) at multiple sites and through various forms of media including popular magazines, newspapers, television and film, fiction, “expert” advice, advertisements, and medical records. In terms of temporal and geographic scope, we are soliciting contributions that focus on the late-nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries, with no geographical restrictions.

This proposed special issue builds on foundational work on the history of maternity by authors such as Rima Apple, Judith Walzer Leavitt, Tania McIntosh, and Wendy Mitchinson, who track the shifting practices, norms, and assumptions that characterize women’s experiences with the rise of medically managed childbirth in the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries. We draw inspiration from more recent projects that embrace approaches rooted in the study of material culture, such as Michelle Millar Fisher and Amber Winick’s Designing Motherhood: Things that Make and Break Our Births (MIT Press 2021), which examines the design histories of objects that have shaped modern motherhood, as well as Stroller by Amanda Parrish Morgan (Bloomsbury 2022) and Pregnancy Test by Karen Weingarten (Bloomsbury 2023) that similarly consider how these material objects have been advertised, represented, and sold so that by the twenty-first century they’ve become synonymous with maternity in the western world. Furthermore, taking a cue from scholars such as Angela Garbes (Essential Labor: Mothering as Social Change [2022]) and Brianna Theobald (Reproduction on the Reservation: Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Colonialism in the Long Twentieth Century [2019]) the special issue will aim to explore the nuances and particularities that distinguish the experience of maternity within a variety of identities across race, class, and ability.

Overall, our goal for the proposed special issue is to enrich the scope of these ongoing critical conversations by providing answers to the question: how has the representation of maternity in the material cultures of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries contributed to our understanding of motherhood, menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, abortion, reproductive technologies, and the various objects that are inextricably connected to maternity? Prospective authors are encouraged to bring their arguments into conversation with broader and interdisciplinary scholarship in the medical humanities, and foreground the contemporary significance of their work.

We seek proposals for original research articles (5000-9000 words, excluding references) from scholars working across a range of disciplines such as literary studies, history, political science, philosophy, sociology, and gender studies. We are especially interested in manuscripts considering maternity from non-Western contexts, and we welcome engagements with any aspect of the historical representation of childbirth, menstruation, pregnancy, motherhood, and the myriad technological innovations, cultural conversations, and politicized implications of modern maternity since the late nineteenth century.

Possible topics include:

  • The role of women’s magazines in shaping maternity, especially in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
  • Advertisements for new reproductive technologies, especially as they appear in publications and other print venues targeting particular communities and/or demographics of women
  • Books, pamphlets, and women’s health guides offering advice on pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood
  • The role of medical experts in shaping expectations about maternity through medical writing, public health campaigns, etc.
  • The ways in which consumerism and capitalism have driven the market for maternity-related objects
  • The medicalization of maternity and representations of technological/medical interventions during pregnancy and childbirth
  • Representations of maternity in popular media, including TV, film, video games, and commercials
  • Histories of reproductive designs, including the designs of reproductive technologies and maternity-related objects


Timeline and Submission Details

As detailed in the timeline below, prospective contributors are requested to first submit an abstract of their proposed paper to the editors via email by the end of April. Accepted abstracts will be used to finalize a Special Issue Proposal for Medical Humanities by the end of May. The anticipated submission deadline for full papers is the end of July, though that timeline may shift depending on the journal’s response.

  • April 30, 2023: Abstract Submission Deadline. Please submit, as a single attachment (word doc or PDF), an abstract of up to 300 words along with a 100-150-word bio to the editors at
  • May 15, 2023: Notification of decisions on Abstracts from special issue editors.
  • May 31, 2023: Special Issue Proposal Submitted to Medical Humanities.
  • *July 31, 2023: Anticipated Full Paper Submission Deadline. Authors of accepted abstracts will submit their original research articles to the Medical Humanities ScholarOne portal for peer-review. Notes and references should follow CMS guidelines. Exact deadline TBA, pending response from Medical Humanities.

Please reach out to the editors with any questions regarding the proposed special issue and/or potential submissions (



Whitney Wood (Canada Research Chair in the Historical Dimensions of Women’s Health, Vancouver Island University), Karen Weingarten (Associate Professor of English, Queens College, City University of New York), Heather Love (Assistant Professor of English, University of Waterloo), and Jerika Sanderson (PhD Candidate in English, University of Waterloo).


Making Modern Maternity Special Issue Editors

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