Things that Make and Break Our Births
More than eighty designs—iconic, archaic, quotidian, and taboo—that have defined arc of human reproduction.
While birth often brings great joy, making babies is a knotty enterprise. The designed objects that surround us when it comes to menstruation, birth control, conception, pregnancy, childbirth, and early motherhood vary as oddly, messily, and dramatically as the stereotypes suggest. This smart, image-rich, fashion-forward, and design-driven book explores more than eighty designs—iconic, conceptual, archaic, titillating, emotionally charged, or just plain strange—that have defined the relationships between people and babies during the past century.
Each object tells a story. In striking images and engaging text, Designing Motherhood unfolds the compelling design histories and real-world uses of the objects that shape our reproductive experiences. The authors investigate the baby carrier, from the Snugli to BabyBjörn, and the (re)discovery of the varied traditions of baby wearing; the tie-waist skirt, famously worn by a pregnant Lucille Ball on I Love Lucy, and essential for camouflaging and slowly normalizing a public pregnancy; the home pregnancy kit, and its threat to the authority of male gynecologists; and more. Memorable images—including historical ads, found photos, and drawings—illustrate the crucial role design and material culture plays throughout the arc of human reproduction.
The book features a prologue by Erica Chidi and a foreword by Alexandra Lange.
Hardcover$44.95 T ISBN: 9780262044899 344 pp. | 7 in x 10 in 125 color illus.
“I believe it is a work of major significance to design studies but also to feminism, gender studies, and cultural history. It certainly doesn't take an expected view of what constitutes 'design.'”
Senior Curator of Contemporary Design, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum; Betty Cooke and William O. Steinmetz Design Chair, Maryland Institute College of Art
“This area of public inquiry is rarely addressed in the fields of social work, public health and public policy, so to have this accessible yet rigorous body of knowledge published will be important for elevating these issues. We believe the text to be extremely well researched and nuanced in its handling of sensitive issues; for example, those related to the impact of racism and white supremacy on the history of women's health.”
Karen Pollack, Executive Vice President of Programs and Operations, and Bette Begleiter, former Deputy Executive Director, Maternity Care Coalition
“In addition to being the first book of its kind to collect this particular design history, it also serves as an important lesson on ways to extend disciplinary boundaries, furthering an expanding design discourse. The text is an education, not just at the nexus of design and motherhood but also on the very practice of approaching design's history—one that involves care, delicacy and the voice of the multiple.”
Curator, London Design Museum
“I cannot praise this volume too highly: it is a breakthrough book and an impressive cultural marker of understanding and enlightenment. It has no peer on its subjects, to my knowledge: future academic and popular writers will have to cite this work.”
Senior Consulting Scholar, William Maul Measey Chair for the History of Medicine; Director Emeritus, Mütter Museum/Historical Medical Library