Sheena Finnigan

  • Fellowship year:2021-2022
  • University: University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: Gender and Women's History
  • Dissertation Title: Working Moms: Motherhood, Occupation, and Status in Roman Italy, 100 BC- 100 AD
  • My project evaluates how occupation, wealth, and socio-legal status worked together to shape women’s attitudes toward and preparation for motherhood. I focus on non-elite women, applying the sociological frameworks of feminism and queer theory to assess the complexities of women’s lives and motherhood. My research shows that women often were not and did not seek to be wives and mothers. Rather, the average, non-elite Roman woman’s work and status shaped whether she sought and engaged in mothering.

    The values of Roman elite, male authors inordinately influence contemporary ideas about maternity. Stoic philosophers like Plutarch, Seneca, and Cicero argued that women often were (and should be) domestic wives and mothers, reinforcing their elite values and social system. The lower-class women I study reveal that the Stoic emphasis on marriage and motherhood for Roman women was not consistent with the lives of most Roman women. Indeed, their own expectations about motherhood reveal a long history of women’s self-determination, revising misleading notions of traditional womanhood that have little relevance to historical reality.