Motherhood. Some would say that it has changed dramatically from years past, others would claim it has only changed a little, but in some ways, it is exactly the same as it has been for millennia.
It does not matter how you became a mother, how many children you have or where you live, most of us are essentially the same at heart. Moms want their children to be happy and healthy. We want to raise giving, loving members of society who know how to contribute to the world at large as well as to their own circle of family and friends.
Mothers across the planet worry when the little ones are out of sight, and they fear that, as mothers, they may not be good enough. It is not all gloom and doom and worries though. All of that fear and anxiety is counterbalanced by the pleasures of parenthood.
We all beam with pride when our child takes their first step, draws a picture or wins a race, and quietly believe that our babies are geniuses that are developing so much more quickly than any other child ever. One hundred years ago we might have written excited letters to our family to share these achievements while today we post to Facebook, text, or call on the phone. The method of sharing might have changed, but the pride in our kids has not.
The same goes for many aspects of being a mom. Just take a look at these pictures and see what I mean.
14 Captured Together
What mom doesn't like to take photos of themselves with their daughter? You only have to open up your social media pages and dozens of pictures cascade through your feeds, many of them will be parents and kids.
Just as today we might get dressed up and play makeup or paint each other's nails mothers of years past enjoyed being girly with their girls just as much. This carefully staged image would have taken some planning. A trip to the photographer's studio along with the goods to create the desired hair and make-up. Maybe the gauze they are wrapped in, but that probably belonged to the studio.
Finally, the photo was exposed and developed in such a way that both mom and daughter have had their skin rendered perfectly pale and smooth and uniform in appearance. Rather like the first kind of photoshopping. Who knew that well over one hundred years ago we began trying to manipulate photos to make us look good?
13 Every Mom, Yesterday And Today
This photograph, entitled "Migrant Mother" was taken in 1936, during the Great Depression. The photographer, Dorothea Lange had been employed to take photos to raise awareness of the plight of migrant family farm workers in the hope of raising aid.
The woman in this photograph is Florence Owens, and she is in a camp field with her children in Nipomo California. Lange approached Owens and asked if she could take her picture. After obtaining permission, she spoke to the mother and later said:
“She and her children had been living on frozen vegetables from the field and wild birds the children caught. The pea crop had frozen; there was no work. Yet they could not move on, for she had just sold the tires from the car to buy food."
Today this image and story could still be captured, the only difference being it would be viral in hours.
12 A Mother's Pride
Which mom among us, who has had a toddler learning to walk, hasn't posed in the same way for the exact same photo as this?
Ok, so there may be a few slight differences. The stroller wouldn't be a low on the ground full body pram. The mother and child would be wearing very different clothes, and it would probably not be in black and white, but the essence of the image would not be out of play on a Facebook feed today.
Showing off our offspring and how bright they are is hard-wired into almost every parent, as is the desire to record their genius and share it with the world. This is probably the reason for the statistic that there are now more photos taken every two minutes than there were in the entire 1800's,
Having been a mother who has both stayed at home full time with her kids and had a full-time job outside of the house I can say with some certainty, that for me at least, one is no harder or easier than the other. They just have different struggles and rewards.
When I first found this photographer I immediately imagined myself, on the occasion I was trapped in the house during some rotten weather that resulted in a power outage, no transport or money to get out and do something and a room full of bored, miserable kids.
Mom here is giving the child at the piano "The Look." One that says "stop showing off because someone is here. If you are bored play the piano, if you don't want to do that then find something else to do, just stop complaining because I'm as fed up and peed off as you are."
Mom's can say a lot with one look.
10 I like To Party
Next time you see an image of a parent having a good time and maybe bringing their kid along in a decidedly not child-friendly adventure, do not lament the parents of today. Taking your child somewhere unsuitable is apparently nothing new as this photograph from around the 1900s shows.
Not only does mom have her daughter in the pub with her she has her baby in a pram too. Remember, this was a time when bars were much more rough and ready places, and there was no such thing as concerns over smoking.
It was just considered perfectly natural to drop into the pub, while out with your children and expect them to hang around in the nasty atmosphere while you knocked back a drink or three. At least today they wouldn't have the second-hand smoke.
9 The Beginning Of Twinning
We will ignore the dubious stylings of these swimsuits. Actually, scrap that, I can't go on without making some kind of comment about these string shopping bags, repurposed as swimsuits. Aren't they uncomfortable? Do you not get little bits of flesh poking out through the holes leaving you with a bizarre crisscross pattern on your body after wearing it all day? What happens if somebody creeps up behind you and undoes those buttons?
I digress. The thing I like about this photo is the way mom and daughter are both dressed in the same thing, but it is entirely appropriate for both of them. This isn't a little girl dressed up in a horrible bikini or a grown woman dressed in a weird kid's suit.
They look so cute together.
8 Now That's A School Run
Next time you think about complaining during the school run think about this photograph. THIS is having a hard time getting the children to school. This mom was so determined to make sure her four offspring made it to their classroom that she had them help her carry a rowboat to the point where the flood started. Then she had them all climb in and pulled them the rest of the way, without any help from the kiddos because she did not want them having wet feet all day.
Of course, there may have been a particular motivation to get them to school. This photograph was taken on January 3rd, 1935 so it was just after the Christmas holidays. Personally speaking, I would drag my kids to school through floodwaters too if it was the first day back after the holidays. All moms are desperate to get the kids out of their hair after two weeks of kids and Christmas.
7 Safety First
This is such an endearing photo. Who among us hasn't had to have the great debate with our child over whether or not they are ready to ride to school alone? I bet this little boy has been begging for weeks and his mom has been trying to put off the inevitable moment when he peddles off over the horizon all on his own.
These were the days long before bike helmets, reflective clothing, and other safety equipment. It was also a time when children might cycle many miles through rural roads to get to where they were going. No lighting, no road markings, not much traffic, it wasn't the safest of times.
Most of all I love the fact that this sign is oh so polite, if grammatically incorrect.
6 And You Thought Your Child Was Gassy
I can only begin to imagine how stressful it must be to be a parent during war and especially if the place where you live is under frequent bombardment and you never know if you are all going to wake up in the morning.
This woman, in London in 1940, is carrying her three-month-old baby and one of the purpose built gasmasks that were manufactured and distributed by the government. At the time it was feared that the Germans would move from using bombs designed to blow up or set fire to their targets and begin using weapons that would release gas on the civilian population.
This mother is on her way to an evacuation center as mothers with babies or pre-school children qualified for a government program to be evacuated to the safer areas of the country. If your children were school-aged, you were not allowed to go with them.
5 Working From Home Has Never Been Easy
Most people who have never worked from home will say the same thing. "Oh that must be wonderful," they say, "Being able to look after the kids while you work takes away all of the stress of childcare."
Yeah, right. Imagine taking five kids with you to your place of work and doing your regular job while managing to keep the children all in one piece, fed, occupied, and still get everything done. It is like attempting to work while herding cats, juggling jello, and trying to feed a pride of angry lions.
This mom is knitting Shetland wool into sweaters. The yarn would be handspun by one woman and knitted by another. These jerseys started out as warm, durable workwear for the farmers and fishermen these women were married to, until the world discovered them and the sweaters became a source of regular income for the families.
4 Jogging Strollers - Nothing New There
It's easy to imagine that it's only in the last decade or so that moms-to-be and new moms have looked for ways to stay fit while looking after their littles. You might be as surprised as I was to discover this is not something that has recently been on the minds of some women, but has been in effect for over a hundred years or more.
This new mom was making the most of pedal power all the way back in 1926, and she wasn't the first. There are plenty of records showing women embracing their newfound freedoms and cycling with their babies a decade or more before this.
So next time you take a look at one of those superduper brand new modern bike strollers remember, they're not so fresh after all. They are, however, a darn sight easier to park outside the store.
3 The Epitome Of Mommy Time
Has there ever been a playtime activity that screams "mommy and daughter time" more than playing tea parties? Admittedly this set up would have been reserved for the well-off sectors of society who had enough disposable income to buy child-sized furniture and dainty china tea set, not something that was common at the time this photo was taken.
Today mom or dad or grandma, or grandpa, or anyone else who has a child in their care will know what it is like for a little one to come up to you and ask if you would like to play this or a similar game. You don't need the fancy gear to play either. A picnic on the floor and some plastic cups and you have something to keep your little one amused for hours.
2 Birth During Polio Paralysis
During the 1950's the illness that caused the greatest fear was most likely polio. The majority of people who contracted the disease were hardly affected at all, with maybe a few cold-like symptoms and a quick recovery. However, these people, who were often unaware they were ill, then spread the virus throughout the community. The fear of Polio was not in the illness itself, or of dying from it, although that did happen. The real terror was of the lasting symptoms with which you could be left.
The polio virus attacks the nerves of the brain and the spinal cord which in turn leads to varying degrees of paralysis. In some cases, the nerves were left stunned and could be stimulated by physical therapy and might work again. In other cases, the nerves would die, and paralysis would be permanent.
The woman in this photo was paralyzed from the neck down and was placed in an iron lung to breathe for her. Her baby was delivered by c-section, and this is her first sight of the baby she conceived before becoming ill.
1 Dire Dignity
We end this post where we began, with an image captured by Dorothea Lange during the Great Depression.
This photograph is easy to obtain now but at the time was never going to become as iconic as "migrant mother" because the media of the time would never publish a photo of a woman breastfeeding.
On this day, August 17, 1936, twenty-three car and truckloads of migrant families crossed through a checkpoint of the California- Arizona border inspection service. They were feeing the drought in Oklahoma and hoping to find work in the cotton fields. This mother was captured feeding her child in a makeshift camp at the side of the road in Blythe California. It was 3 pm and the family had been traveling for many hours before finally camping for the child to be fed.
Sources: moma.org, theindependant.co.uk, loc.gov,
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