Better Living Through Chemistry

The Motherhood Archives

Special Screening
Special One-Time Screening




Not Rated

Panel Discussion will follow the film with:
Jennifer Creech, PhD
Assistant Professor of German
Department of Modern Languages And Cultures
University of Rochester
Jill Swiencicki, PhD
Associate Professor, English (Writing and Rhetoric)
Director, Women and Gender Studies Program
St. John Fisher College
Molly Ball, PhD
Department of History
University of Rochester

About the Film:

Archival montage, science fiction, and an homage to 70s feminist filmmaking are woven together to form this haunting and lyrical essay film excavating hidden histories of childbirth in the twentieth century. Assembling an extraordinary archive of over 100 educational, industrial, and medical training films (including newly rediscovered Soviet and French childbirth films) THE MOTHERHOOD ARCHIVES(2013, 91 min.) inventively untangles the complex, sometimes surprising genealogies of maternal education. From the first use of anesthetic ether in the 19th century to the postmodern 21st century hospital birthing suite, THE MOTHERHOOD ARCHIVES charts a fascinating course through the cultural history of pain, the history of obstetric anesthesia, and the little-known international history of the natural childbirth and Lamaze movements. Revealing a world of intensive training, rehearsal, and performative preparation for the unknown that is ultimately incommensurate with experience, THE MOTHERHOOD ARCHIVES is a meditation on the maternal body as a site of institutional control, ideological surveillance, medical knowledge, and nationalist state intervention. Finally, the film works as a feminist recuperation of obsolete maternal histories, as a visual analysis of the persistent disciplining of the pregnant / laboring body, and as a new, contemporary counter-archive of women’s experiential narratives.

The Women's History Month series is supported by a grant from the New York Council for the Humanities.