Thanks to my dear friend Kevin for sending this Slate article to me. I’ve included the intro paragraph and a most relevant section on breastfeeding while working – in 1909!
Having It All. In France. 100 Years Ago. [FROM SLATE]
Turns out the work-life balance debate was raging in Belle Époque magazines, too.
By Rachel Mesch Posted Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, at 9:09 AM ET on Slate
At first blush, recent discussions about women “having it all” seem to be uniquely American and of this time: the product of our overachieving society, capitalism, and the constant pressure to succeed. But it’s also a product of the mass media and its particular, visual pressures upon women. This, then, is not a new phenomenon. It actually originated more than 100 years ago in France, where both photography and film were invented, and arguably celebrity culture as well (think Sarah Bernhardt).
This striking cover by the beloved artist Paul Cesar Helleu assimilated breast-feeding with traditional French elegance. Some of the most popular women’s fiction of the time discussed the challenges of nursing for the female professional. Sound familiar? In a 1909 novel, a rising legal star runs off to nurse in between court sessions; in another, the protagonist is a brilliant doctor whose child dies after the nanny adds water to breast milk while Maman is off seeing patients.
Photo courtesy Rachel Mesch.
My thoughts: It’s helpful when reminded that we’re facing a ton of media and societal pressure to step back and try to re-connect with what we really want. However, we can never completely separate our “really wants” from social expectations and, boy, is that inconvenient.
Good news: We’re creating a space to help women work, care for their children, and perhaps more importantly, connect with other women and talk about what it’s like trying to “have it all” today.