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Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade

Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade
Author: Rickie Solinger
ISBN 13: 9780415926768
ISBN 10: 415926769
Edition: 2
Publisher: Routledge
Publication Date: 2000-02-28
Format: Paperback
Pages: 360
List Price: $34.95

An unwed mother: The source of babies for childless couples; a scapegoat for rising tax bills; a symbol of the wages of gender insubordination; the cause of all problems in the black community; the typical American girl--the variety of roles assigned to the "unwed mother" in the postwar era highlights the consistent vulnerability of sexually active girls and women. It also reveals the shifting requirements of a society which depends upon sustaining gender, class, and racial inequality under changing historical conditions.

Despite the fact that black and white "unwed mothers" in the pre-Roe v. Wade era experienced the same biological events, their lived experiences were very different. Wake Up Little Susie surveys the public policies, community attitudes, and private responses to illegitimate pregnancy, maternity, and children that structured these women's experiences. It demonstrates how female sexuality and fertility, and the single mother herself, have been used as proving grounds for theories of race, gender, motherhood, and social stability. Rickie Solinger provides the first published analyses of maternity home programs for unwed mothers from 1945 to 1965, as well as examines how nascent cultural and political constructs such as the "population bomb" and the "sexual revolution" reinforced racially-specific public policy initiatives. Such initiatives encouraged white women to relinquish their babies, spawning a flourishing adoption market, while they subjected black women to social welfare policies which assumed they would keep their babies and aimed to prevent them from having more.

Incorporating the responses of social service and political professionals of this era to the "crisis" of out-of-wedlock pregnancy with letters, poems, and statements from the pregnant women themselves, Wake Up Little Susie offers readers an arena to explore the intersections of female biology and social constructions of gender, race, and class.


This book documents the ways in which race shaped the experience of unwed pregnancy in the 1950s and 1960s. It analyzes the cultural meaning of unwed pregnancy for white and black women and emphasizes the added complications of race and class in the study of gender. Solinger is also author and editor of other books on abortion. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)