Mitsyuk N. A. Parent diary as an important source for representing family, motherhood and childhood history in pre-revolutionary Russia (.pdf)


The author considers parent diaries widely spread in Russia since the late 19th century an important source in the representation of family, motherhood and childhood history. The main approaches were socio-anthropological and feminist ones. The author uses professional parent diaries (compiled by pediatricians and educators) and archived maternal and paternal records in order to consider the practice of conducting parent diaries from the positions of both «experts» and «patients». The earliest parent diary dates back to 1830, which refutes the assertions of foreign authors (for example Byford) who state that the practice appeared in Russia solely because of imitating the Western tradition. Strong desire to document the features of child’s development proves the appearance of child-centrism in families. Important reasons for the prevalence of parent diaries were medicalization of childhood and social construction of the new “conscious” and “professional” motherhood. Doctors charged mothers with the functions of qualified “experts” in the development of their children, urging them to continuously record changes in children in the diaries. A mother in her daily care of the little ones had to implement the functions of a pediatrician, a teacher and a writer simultaneously. At the beginning of the 20th century, a significant number of samples of observation diaries, very close to modern medical records of pregnant women and infants, were published on the pages of Russian journals. Parent diary, according to the doctors, was to become an important tool in the design of pediatric patronage. At the same time, diary of observation thoroughly “tied” a mother to a child. It turned baby care that used to be a natural female function into a professional work aimed at publicity.


Key words: history of motherhood, study of motherhood, parent diary, medicalization, “conscious motherhood”, history of childhood, family history.


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