Half-mothers vs serious calling?

Community Leader
Registered: 10-01-2010
Half-mothers vs serious calling?
5
Sat, 01-07-2012 - 8:27pm
Genesis 21:7

New International Version (NIV)

7 And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

8 The child grew and was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-13-2008
Sat, 01-07-2012 - 11:11pm

If anything, it seems as though Calvin was considered controversial in his day with some of his interpretations of the Bible. And this would be nearly 600 years ago, when, for a woman to choose not to spend her time breastefeeding her offspring would have likely meant death for the baby. In the light of that, he would have been saying more about a woman who considered breastfeeding and thus the baby a hinderance, to the point where the baby was likely to die. Like many things written in the past, I do not think that you can understand what they really meant back then unless you look at it in context.

As a child, I recall how it was considered essential for a woman or girl to wear hats or a head covering to Mass. I even recall my mother spending precious money that we had little of, to ensure we all had respectable Mass hats, even the baby girls. It was practically a confessable sin to go to Mass without a head covering. Where did that idea come from? Well, the Bible talks about it being important for women to wear head coverings. This stems from the fact that then, protitutes were the only women who did not cover their head, and so not wearing a hat signalled that a woman was a protitute.

Somehow, almost 2 millenia later, this turned into the idea of wearing hats to Mass. Sometime through the seventies, a while after Vatican II, this history was seen for what it was, and it was no longer essential to wear hats to Mass.

I think we need to see Calvins statements as a conviction and an exhortation for a mother to care for and love her children. These days, of course, a mother can do that and not breastfeed. So taken out of context, his words make no sense.

Teresa

Avatar for catherina
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Sun, 01-08-2012 - 9:08am

If you understand this as a historical text, it is possible that people 2000 years ago recognised that breastfed infants survived better. In Calvin's times, it was still breast, either mum's or a wet nurse's. I don't think you can construct a moral argument from ancient texts like that and certainly, as a female, I never feel comfortable with the "life style" advice of religious leaders. I had one of my first feminist moments when I read Luther's opinion on death in the childbed, which was essentially

Death in childbirth is nothing else but death in the noble work and and obidience to god. If women ultimately bear themselves tired or dead does not matter. Let them bear to death. That is what they are here for. (my translation of Predigt von 1526, Weimarer Ausgabe 16, S. 551)

Calvin supported the inquisition and death penalty for witches. I cannot but regard these text solely with socio-historical interest.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-13-2008
Sun, 01-08-2012 - 10:28am

Yes, I would certainly hope that people these days are urged to think more independently about everything, rather than blindly question any edicts. We would never have had the feminist movement, if it was not for women who refused to take a back seat, and questioned the way things were.

Community Leader
Registered: 10-01-2010
Sun, 01-08-2012 - 11:06am

I think what he was speaking against was the use of wet-nurses - since he talks about nursing your OWN offspring. So it seems that he is encourging women to not put aside their children, that they are not "full" mothers simply by giving birth and then handing the baby over to a wet nurse to feed and raise.

I would not suggest following the advice of long-ago religious leaders either - just thought this might make an interesting debate. Perhaps the strong language will draw in a few lurkers to finally post! :smileywink:

Avatar for catherina
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Sun, 01-08-2012 - 11:11am

well, it makes total sense, since not using wet nurses would seriously bind mums to the house... It may also have to do with an aversion against wealth and comfort (Calvin being Calvin). Using a wet nurse involves payment = disposable income. As I said - a fascinating thing to look into from a socio-historical perspective. Oh to have that time on my hands....