When Andrea O’Reilly received a call from a publisher expressing interest in an encyclopedia on motherhood, she knew her field of expertise had finally arrived.
O’Reilly, a professor in York’s School of Women’s Studies in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and founder of the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement (MIRCI), has dedicated her career to the study of motherhood and having it recognized as a legitimate topic of scholarly inquiry.
This month her Encyclopedia of Motherhood was released by Sage Press – a 1,500-page, three-volume collection featuring 700 entries on just about every aspect of the complex topic.
But it still remains a “sidebar” subject, she added, even in women’s studies departments. “What isn’t really happening is motherhood is still not being taught in the mainstream courses, so it’s still being kind of ghettoized,” she said.
An academic examination of motherhood didn’t exist when O’Reilly worked to earn her PhD in English at York, she said, and that prompted her to design a course dedicated solely to the subject in 1990 – the first of its kind in Canada.
The complete article is available on CityNews.ca.
The Toronto Star also interviewed O'Reilly for an article on the merits of studying motherhood May 8:
Until recently, motherhood didn’t qualify as a subject worthy of scholarly study. The collective voice of mothers is seldom heard in ivory towers or corridors of power, or in the discussion of policies that affect us all.
“The minute you’re a mother, you’re aware of the absence,” says Andrea O’Reilly, 49, a professor in York’s School of Women’s Studies in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. “Motherhood is the blind spot.” She wanted to change that.
In 1991, O’Reilly developed Canada’s first university course on motherhood, at York. The Internet was in its infancy. Supermom was taking flight. Women were thrashing around with work and children, resigned to exhaustion following “the second shift.”
Feminist writers and scholars were exploring motherhood, but often in isolation.
O’Reilly, who has three children, tapped into a hunger for research, debate and a grassroots community, along with the desire to reconcile feminism with mothering when the two were often at odds.
She held a conference, and was shocked when it attracted 150 researchers and academics from around the world. In 1998, she founded the Association for Research on Mothering, the first of its kind. It took on a life of its own.
Its journal, exploring everything from poverty to mothers in pop culture, popped up on university reading lists across the country and abroad.
Then came a publication division. Demeter Press has released 10 books, including one on mommy blogging and another called Mother Knows Best: Talking Back to the Experts, which challenged conventional parenting advice.
Earlier this year, mounting debt forced ARM, which had space at York but never received operating funding, to close its doors. The university acknowledged the association’s renown and 550 paying members but would not provide funds.
This month, following a groundswell of support from researchers in 15 countries, including Australia, Brazil and Spain, the association was reborn as an independent organization. The new Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement will be funded through memberships, sales of its publications, grants and fundraising, including a literary fundraiser in Toronto on May 21.
The complete article is available on The Star's Web Site.
Republished courtesy of YFile– York University’s daily e-bulletin.