Jennifer (Sperfslage) Flenthrope, M.A.
Education: Bachelor of Arts in English and psychology (December 2004)
Master of Arts in speech-language pathology from the University of Kansas
McNair Project: Creating Lives of Their Own: Twentieth Century American Women Writers With Children (2004)
Mentor: Susan Rodgers, M.F.A
The majority of well-known women writers of the nineteenth century never married, or married late in their thirties. Very few had children when young, and all of them had servants. For more than the first half of the twentieth century, the majority of women writers fit nearly the same profile. Thus, the voices of wives, mothers, and women who worked paid jobs were not being adequately represented in the literature.
In the twentieth century, determined women began filling this gap in the literature. In increasing numbers, women are writing in addition to the responsibilities of family and paid jobs. Although women writers are still faced with gender-specific societal pressures that impede their work, conceptions of both motherhood and the writing life have evolved dramatically in the last century, making it more acceptable than ever before to be both a mother and a writer. Even so, those who choose motherhood encounter a particularly complex set of impediments to their writing. Yet motherhood can also be beneficial to a writer's work.
This study does not purport to be all-inclusive; however, a large, diverse sampling of published writer-mothers is discussed in relation to the interplay between their writing and motherhood.