Sarah Smiley

Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Michael J. Socolow

Second Committee Member

Laura Lindenfeld

Third Committee Member

Jeffrey St. John


This research examines the production of the construction of motherhood in first-person narratives published in magazines intended for a mostly female audience and magazines intended for a general audience. Employing a style of discourse analysis that departs from traditional Critical Discourse Analysis in order to leave room for interpretation and the examination of content that is contextually bound, the methodology for this research focuses on reading sample essays multiple times and identifying themes and patterns of discourse. The sample includes first-person essays published within a five-year time period in Parenting, Parents, The New York Times, and The Boston Globe. Six themes were identified: Self-Sacrificing Motherhood, Motherhood as Labor, Mother as Servant, Competitive Motherhood, Narcissistic Motherhood and Anxiety-Provoking Confessions. A major finding in the analysis is that the highly formulaic nature of the essays, coupled with the editorial process prepublication, leaves little room for authenticity, and, therefore, traditional mothering ideologies are often replicated.