Blum, Linda M. 1956-
Blum, Linda M. 1956-
ADDRESSES: Home—20 Livermore Rd., Belmont, MA 02478. Office—Department of Sociology, University of New Hampshire, Horton Social Science Center, Durham, NH 03824-3586; fax: 603-862-0178. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, assistant professor, 1988-95; Tufts University, Medford, MA, visiting associate professor, 1996; University of New Hampshire, Durham, assistant professor, 1996-2002, associate professor of sociology, 2002-.
AWARDS, HONORS: Women's Studies Dissertation Award, Woodrow Wilson Foundation, 1986; Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline Award, American Sociological Association/National Sciences Foundation, 1991; honorable mention, C. Wright Mills Book Award, Society for the Study of Social Problems, 1992, for Between Feminism and Labor: The Significance of the Comparable Worth Movement; Bunting fellow, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies, 1996-97; Distinguished Book Award, Sex and Gender Section, American Sociological Association, 2000, and honorable mention, Mirra Komarovsky Award, Eastern Sociological Society, 2002, both for At the Breast: Ideologies of Breastfeeding and Motherhood in the Contemporary United States.
Between Feminism and Labor: The Significance of the Comparable Worth Movement, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1991.
At the Breast: Ideologies of Breastfeeding and Motherhood in the Contemporary United States, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1999.
Contributor to professional journals and magazines, including Journal of Labor and Society, Gender and Society, Social Problems, Feminist Studies, Newsday, and Berkeley Journal of Sociology.
Author's work has been translated into Japanese.
WORK IN PROGRESS: "Gender in the Prozac Nation," with Nena Stracuzzi, on representations of burgeoning Prozac use in popular culture; research on gender, women, and pharmaceutical culture.
SIDELIGHTS: Linda M. Blum is an associate professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire. Among her research and teaching interests are topics such as women's lives in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries; the sociology of gender; history of the body; work and labor; and sociological and feminist theory, as she reported in an autobiography on the University of New Hampshire Web site.
A native Californian, Blum received a Ph.D. in 1987 from the University of California at Berkeley with a dissertation on women workers and their mobilization for pay equity. Her dissertation brought her the Women's Studies Dissertation Award from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation in 1986, and was ultimately published as Between Feminism and Labor: The Significance of the Comparable Worth Movement. In her review for Labor Studies Journal, Deborah M. Figart noted that, "in this insightful study, Linda Blum analyzes the role played by two major actors in the comparable worth movement: organized labor and the feminist movement." Jill Rubery pointed out in a review for Sociology that "the thesis argued here is that comparable worth is much more radical in its potential than was the affirmative action programme. The movement addresses class as well as gender issues and thus has a more immediate interest to working class women than the equal opportunities agenda." Blum closely analyzes comparable-worth efforts in two counties in northern California, exploring comparable worth as a political movement, the role of labor unions in comparable worth efforts, problems encountered in the division of labor along gender lines, and the dangers of letting job evaluation fall solely to technicians and not to those with a vested interest in the jobs. Figart concluded that "this interdisciplinary book would be excellent for labor studies classes seeking to understand the politics and dynamics of the comparable worth movement" and its position in labor movements and feminist ideology.
Throughout the 1990s, Blum's research "focused on racialized and class-specific notions of motherhood, breastfeeding, and feminine bodies," as she related on the University of New Hampshire Web site. This research, plus her own experiences with breastfeeding, inspired her to consider the practice as experienced by women of all the different American subcultures. The result of that investigation is At the Breast: Ideologies of Breastfeeding and Motherhood in the Contemporary United States. In the book, Blum examines the notion that breastfeeding has become largely synonymous with the modern concept of a "good mother." The book "is a model of how women's experiences with motherhood compare to and depart from the contemporary model of 'exclusive mothering' that calls for a single-minded focus on children and their needs," remarked Joanna G. Higginson in Contemporary Sociology. Blum analyzes "how influences of race, class, and gender contribute to women's breastfeeding experiences," Higginson stated. The African-American women Blum interviewed rejected any social pressure to breastfeed; instead, they preferred to share parenting duties with the father and other adults, which made bottle-feeding a more practical alternative. Working mothers who felt that they should provide the benefits of breast milk for their babies turned to the breast pump to extract the milk so that it could be delivered in their absence. But Blum notes that this approach deprives mother and child of deep bonding experiences and creates a form of "disembodied motherhood." The "contemporary employed mother, using a pump to express her milk, becomes removed from her own body, pleasures, and needs," Higginson remarked. Mothers from La Leche League, usually white, married, and middle-class, "viewed their breastfeeding successes as the result of a correct moral choice to practice exclusive mothering," Higginson observed. Unmindful of the privileges of marriage and greater economic wealth that legitimized their choices and allowed them to practice exclusive mothering without interference, they elected to breastfeed not out of any genuine need, compulsion, or coercion, but simply because they could.
As Blum explained in her statement for CA, however, "this notion of moral motherhood continues to reinforce racialized class boundaries just as earlier notions have historically." As is the case for many authors, Blum's research interests come "from my own experience, to work out my own tangle of emotions. Yet, as a sociologist and women's studies scholar, my research and writing move beyond my own experience, to place it in the context of women's diverse and changing lives. My book At the Breast was 'conceived' in 1990 when I sought to understand my intense, sometimes ambivalent experiences with my own young son, but it took many years of research on expert and popular advice, and of fieldwork with diverse groups of mothers (as well as the substantial help of a fellowship at Radcliffe's Bunting Institute) before its 'birth' in 1999."
In a review for the American Journal of Sociology, Barbara Katz Rothman proclaimed that "At the Breast is feminist research of the highest order, setting a standard for how the work ought to be done." Further, Rothman observed that "What is striking and admirable about [Blum's] … analysis is that in a discussion that has been almost entirely subsumed in concerns about what is best for babies, Blum focuses unwaveringly on mothers, on women as minded social beings. She explicitly links infant feeding choices and practices to questions of citizenship, national and global politics, and shows that 'as such the meaning of the maternal body should not be seen as the periphery of scholarship.'" The book emerges as "an illustration of stratification, the power of a socially constructed reality, and the role of women in contemporary American society," remarked Higginson.
Blum also received accolades for At the Breast in such venues as the New York Times and Nation. She continues to research the topic of "breastfeeding as a site of work/family conflict, of class and race boundary-making," she reported on the University of New Hampshire Web site.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Affilia, winter, 1992, June Axinn, review of Between Feminism and Labor: The Significance of the Comparable Worth Movement, p. 104.
American Journal of Sociology, January, 1992, Joan Acker, review of Between Feminism and Labor: The Significance of the Comparable Worth Movement, p. 1154; January, 2000, Barbara Katz Rothman, review of At the Breast: Ideologies of Breastfeeding and Motherhood in the Contemporary United States, p. 1234.
Choice, November, 1999, M. M. Denny, review of At the Breast, p. 578.
Contemporary Sociology, January 1993, Ruth A. Needleman, review of Between Feminism and Labor, p. 65; November, 2000, Joanna G. Higginson, review of At the Breast, p. 826.
Gender and Society, April, 2000, Anne Figert, review of At the Breast, p. 352.
Journal of Women's History, summer, 2000, Jennie Scheinbach, review of At the Breast, p. 217.
Labor Studies Journal, spring, 1993, Deborah M. Figart, review of Between Feminism and Labor, p. 64.
Library Journal, April 1, 1999, Barbara M. Bibel, review of At the Breast, p. 119.
New York Times, May 22, 1999, Sarah Boxer, "As a Gauge of Social Change, Behold: The Breast," p. B11.
Signs, autumn, 1992, Jane Stinson, review of Between Feminism and Labor, p. 209.
Sociology, February 1992, Jill Rubery, review of Between Feminism and Labor, p. 135.
Women and Politics, summer, 1994, Michael W. McCann, review of Between Feminism and Labor, p. 97.
University of New Hampshire Web site, http://pubpages/unh.edu/ (October 8, 2004), "Linda M. Blum."