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The Motherhood Archives
A film by Irene Lusztig
US, 2013, 91 minutes, Color/BW, DVD, English/French, English subtitles
Order No. W141124
Archival montage, science fiction and an homage to 1970s feminist filmmaking are woven together to form this haunting and lyrical essay film excavating hidden histories of childbirth in the twentieth century. After several years of buying films online and working in historical archives, award-winning filmmaker Irene Lusztig amassed an unusual and fascinating collection of found footage aimed at teaching women how to be pregnant, give birth, and look after babies, along with training films for obstetricians and health care professionals, and a handful of home movies.

Assembling her extraordinary trove from over 100 different sources, including newly rediscovered Soviet and French childbirth material tracing the evolution of Lamaze, THE MOTHERHOOD ARCHIVES inventively untangles the complex, sometimes surprising genealogies of maternal education. This extraordinary achievement illuminates our changing narratives of maternal success and failure while raising important questions about our social and historical constructions of motherhood.

Includes bonus video and teaching modules


Women Media Arts & Film Festival, Winner, Best Feature Film

  • Santa Cruz Film Festival
  • London and Porto Underground Film Festival
  • Antimatter Media Arts Festival

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    "Irene Lusztig's fearless and riveting investigation into motherhood and the unfree maternal body shows how a skilled filmmaker can wring both eloquence and entertainment from archival material.
    Rick Prelinger, archivist and founder
    Prelinger Archives & Prelinger Library

    "A must-see film for feminists teaching or thinking about motherhood today, as well as its representational legacy, THE MOTHERHOOD ARCHIVES makes critical inroads into subjects that feminism (or women) have always, somehow looked past..."
    Alexandra Juhasz
    Professor of Media Studies, Pitzer College

    "The visually stunning footage curated from a century's worth of birthing movements will inspire impassioned discussion and debates about the changing political and social economy of motherhood. An excellent teaching tool."
    Kristen Ghodsee
    Prof. of Gender and Women's Studies, Bowdoin College

    "Through the masterful integration of archival footage and historical interpretation, Lusztig’s film catalogs the changing attitudes towards pregnancy, labor, and delivery. This film is perfect for students taking Women’s History or History of Medicine; actually, anyone planning a pregnancy should see this movie."
    Elizabeth Reis, Professor
    Women’s and Gender Studies Dept., University of Oregon

    “It’s a beautifully made, carefully researched, and fascinating film that uses feminist filmmaking techniques to challenge some of the narratives surrounding pregnancy and childbirth and to give voice to some of the hidden histories and experiences.”
    Jillian Sandell, Associate Prof,
    Women and Gender Studies, San Francisco State University

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    The Motherhood Archives is included in the following Special Collections.
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WMM offers film collections on a variety of specific subject areas, including the collections VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: Ending the Silence, BODY IMAGE, and AFRICAN-AMERICAN: Celebrate the Lives of African-American Women.

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Women Make Movies is a multicultural, multiracial, non-profit media arts organization which facilitiates the production, promotion, distribution, and exhibition of independent films and videotapes by and about women. contact us