vol 21 - 1995

Life passages for women, particularly those of midlife, are at the center of many of the contributions to this issue. The articles, not surprisingly, articulate public positions and subjective experiences that go against the grain of dominant notions of aging for women. We can expect feminist thinkers in the 1990s to be more sophisticated about aging and life stages than we were in earlier decades. As the college students and young working women who made up such a large part of second-wave feminism in the 1970s have reached their fifth and sixth decades, they have emphasized new issues: motherhood-often a midlife experience these days—menopause, women and medical technology, breast cancer epidemiology. (Media reviewers and journalists eager for an audience, for their part, have eagerly tarred the feminist movement with middle-age imagery: stodgy, rigid, worn out.)

Margaret Morganroth Gullette's "Inventing the 'Postmaternal' Woman, 1898-1927: Idle, Unwanted, and Out of a Job" is a perfect introduction to our "midlife" cluster of articles, exploring the process of constructing stigma and "problem" out of the routine chronology of women's lives. Gullette looks particularly closely at the decades around the turn of the twentieth century, so prolific in social and sexual taxonomies, when writers scrutinized with skepticism and hostility a social type they thought was rising to prominence: the still-vigorous mother whose children were grown, leaving her with an "empty nest." Clearly these writers, who included such notable progressive women as Ellen Glasgow and Dorothy Canfield Fisher, were responding to a social change which reached middle-class women first: as birthrates declined, women completed their childbearing (and childrearing) at an earlier point in their lives. Optimism, relief, and pleasure had marked this stage for previous generations of women; the early-twentieth-century observers framed it with condescension and concern. As Gullette concludes, after looking at the variety of women's texts that delineated "postmaternal" survival as a female "problem," critics have been very poor at "reading for age" and have indeed tended to identify with "the young." Age stages are yet another way in which "woman" needs to be deconstructed, she remarks.


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Margaret Morganroth Gullette
Inventing the "Postmaternal" Woman
1898-1927: Idle, Unwanted, and
Out of a Job

Lisa Jean Moore and Adele E. Clarke
Clitoral Conventions and Transgressions:
Graphic Representations in Anatomy
Texts, c1900-1991

Sheila Solomon, An-My Lê, and Alicia Ostriker
Collaborative Portfolio
(Art, Photography, Poetry)

Marylynne Diggs
Romantic Friends or a "Different Race of
Creatures"? The Representation of Lesbian
Pathology in Nineteenth-Century America

Jane Adan
The Ambulance Men (Short Story)

Kathleen I. MacPherson
Going to the Source: Women Reclaim
(Review Essay)

Diana Hume George
From "Burning the Photographs" (Poetry)

Deborah A. Gordon
Feminism and Cultural Studies (Review Essay)

Judith Yarnall
The Central Eye (Poetry)

Lauren Berlant
Live Sex Acts

Gwendolyn Mikell
African Feminism: Toward a New
Politics of Representation

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