Date of Degree

5-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Women's and Gender Studies

Advisor

Dana-Ain Davis

Subject Categories

Social and Cultural Anthropology

Keywords

teenage motherhood, United States, memory, material cultural, young motherhood

Abstract

This paper explores how memories and material culture can be used to understand intergenerational teenage motherhood. Intimate, feminist ethnography is used to explore the experiences of my mother and my grandmother who were both teenage mothers. Teenage mothers are blamed for perpetuating a cycle of poverty in the United States by conservative and neoliberal adherents, yet women were young mothers throughout the history of the United States. In their minds, teenage mothers have daughters who become teenage mothers themselves, which then maintains poverty across generations. This project counters that false narrative by focusing on the experiences of intergenerational teenage mothers through the stories they tell related to belongings from their time as young mothers. I argue we need to focus on teenage mother’s needs instead of viewing their circumstances as a ‘problem’ that needs solved.

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