Without Children: The Long History of Not Being a Mother (Hardcover)

Without Children: The Long History of Not Being a Mother By Peggy O'Donnell Heffington Cover Image
Usually Ships in 1-5 Days


A historian explores the complicated relationship between womanhood and motherhood in this “timely, refreshingly open-hearted study of the choices women make and the cards they’re dealt” (Ada Calhoun, author of Why We Can’t Sleep).

In an era of falling births, it’s often said that millennials invented the idea of not having kids. But history is full of women without children: some who chose childless lives, others who wanted children but never had them, and still others—the vast majority, then and now—who fell somewhere in between. Modern women considering how and if children fit into their lives are products of their political, ecological, and cultural moment. But history also tells them that they are not alone. 
Drawing on deep research and her own experience as a woman without children, historian Peggy O’Donnell Heffington shows that many of the reasons women are not having children today are ones they share with women in the past: a lack of support, their jobs or finances, environmental concerns, infertility, and the desire to live different kinds of lives. Understanding this history—how normal it has always been to not have children, and how hard society has worked to make it seem abnormal—is key, she writes, to rebuilding kinship between mothers and non-mothers, and to building a better world for us all. 

About the Author

Peggy O’Donnell Heffington is an instructional professor of history at the University of Chicago and teaches subjects ranging from feminism to human rights. Her writing can be found in Jezebel,the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Boston Globe, and elsewhere. She received her PhD in history from the University of California, Berkeley. 

Praise For…

“Impeccably researched” —San Francisco Chronicle

“[a] well-researched and compellingly readable history… Without Children will interest readers engaged with intersectional feminist thought and women’s rights in a wide variety of contexts.”—Booklist

“Provocative and well researched… A liberatingly perceptive work of sociology and cultural history.”—Kirkus

"Historian Heffington’s incisive debut examines how society demonizes women without children while increasingly failing to provide the supports that make it possible to raise kids sustainably...A cogent and well-supported polemic.” —Publishers Weekly

"Desire, doubt, destiny—there are many reasons for the shape of a family. With clarity and compassion, historian Peggy O’Donnell Heffington offers a timely, refreshingly open-hearted study of the choices women make and the cards they're dealt."—Ada Calhoun, author of Why We Can't Sleep

“At once bracing and beautiful, Without Children is a timely meditation on all of the reasons why women increasingly can't, don't, or won't have children—along with the social penalties they pay, the freedoms they garner, and the feminist solidarity that we can all build together, whether we have children or not. I was intrigued and carried along for the book's length by O'Donnell Heffington's lyricism, thoughtfulness, humor, and panache.”—Kate Manne, author of Entitled

"I devoured this book. Peggy O’Donnell Heffington is the rare serious historian who writes with verve and humor, bringing to life the big, hard questions of history that illuminate the present. Without Children is a story of women who decided not to have children, but ultimately shows us new things not only about these women, but about family, motherhood, childhood, aspiration, and love in a precarious world. It is a signal contribution to the historical field and a vivid series of stories that are alternately shocking, funny, and inspiring."—Kathleen Belew, author of Bring the War Home

“A woman with children is a mother.  A woman without children has no name. Without Children, written with warmth and insight and layered with deeply personal stories, tells us this woman in fact has many names, faces, and identities—all worth knowing.”—Lara Bazelon, author of Ambitious Like a Mother

Without Children is the rich, nuanced history of women without children that has been missing from the discourse. Peggy O'Donnell Heffington skillfully avoids the trap of pitting women without children against mothers, while showing how the choice of whether or not to be a mother has historically been dictated by—you guessed it!—the patriarchy. A necessary book, whatever your parental status is.”—Doree Shafrir, author of Thanks for Waiting

Product Details
ISBN: 9781541675575
ISBN-10: 1541675576
Publisher: Seal Press
Publication Date: April 18th, 2023
Pages: 256
Language: English

Situated on the main street of the historic Delaware Riverfront town of New Hope, Pennsylvania, Farley’s Bookshop and its knowledgeable, experienced staff have endeavored to satisfy the literary tastes of the area inhabitants for over fifty years. Whether you are Bucks County born-and-bred or just stopping by to enjoy the crisp river air and delightful scenery, you will be pleasantly surprised to find the largest and most diverse collection of books-in-print in Bucks County. Farley’s may have competition, but it has few peers. We encourage you to browse our website, but please remember that getting acquainted with our online persona is no substitute for exploring the narrow passageways and teeming shelves of our storefront and discovering that perfect book nestled amongst so many others.

New Hope for American Art

                                               New Hope for American Art is the most comprehensive book ever published on artists from, and surrounding, the New Hope Art Colony (also known as the Pennsylvania Impressionists). This book, with its 612 pages and over 1,000 color plates of artwork include biographies of 165 individual Pennsylvania Impressionists and New Hope Modernists as well as artists from the Philadelphia Ten, a pioneering group of women all educated at Philadelphia art schools. 

In this book, you'll find biographies and artwork from such artists as:

  • Daniel Garber
  • Edward Redfield
  • George Sotter
  • Arthur Meltzer
  • Robert Spencer
  • William Langson Lathrop
  • Kenneth Nunamaker
  • John Folinsbee
  • Henry Snell
  • William F. Taylor
  • Fern Coppedge
  • M. Elizabeth Price
  • Clarence Johnson
  • S. George Phillips
  • Rae Sloan Bredin
  • Walter Baum
  • Walter Schofield
  • Morgan Colt
  • Charles Rosen
  • Joseph Meierhans
  • Charles F. Ramsey
  • Louis Stone
  • Charles Evans
  • Josef Zenk

New Hope for American Art was authored, designed and published by James M. Alterman, an expert in the field of Pennsylvania Impressionist and Modernist painting. A longtime collector and owner of two fine art galleries, Alterman wanted to create a user-friendly book intended not only to educate collectors and enthusiasts about this art but to help train one's eye. The book offers valuable tips on how to avoid common mistakes often experienced by new collectors drawn from the author's personal experiences as a collector and fine art dealer.