• 310 pages
  • 6 x 9
  • Price: $34.95
  • EAN: 9781439918692
  • Publication: May 2021
  • Price: $110.50
  • EAN: 9781439918685
  • Publication: May 2021
  • Price: $34.95
  • EAN: 9781439918708
  • Publication: May 2021

Feminist Reflections on Childhood

A History and Call to Action

Penny A. Weiss

In Feminist Reflections on Childhood, Penny Weiss rediscovers the radically feminist tradition of advocating for the liberatory treatment of youth. Weiss looks at both historical and contemporary feminists to understand what issues surrounding the inequality experienced by both women and children were important to the authors as feminist activists and thinkers. She uses the writings of Mary Wollstonecraft, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Simone de Beauvoir to show early feminist arguments for the improved status and treatment of youth. Weiss also shows how Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a socialist feminist, and Emma Goldman, an anarchist feminist, differently understood and re-visioned children’s lives, as well as how children continue to show up on feminist agendas and in manifestos that demand better conditions for children’s lives.

Moving to contemporary theory, Feminist Reflections on Childhood also looks at how feminist disability theory is well-positioned to recognize the voices of children, and how queer theory provides lessons on contemporary trends that provide visions and strategies for more constructive adult-child relations. Weiss, who includes her own experiences as a mother and foster mother throughout the book, closes her distinctively feminist takes on childhood with a consideration of speculative fiction stories that offer examples of what feminists think makes childhood (un)livable.


Feminist Reflections on Childhood is an important contribution to the study of the place of children in the history of feminist political thought, especially in the United States. It shows the ways that an array of women writers in America, across eras and genres, from Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Emma Goldman to Joanna Russ and Octavia Butler, have articulated the ethics of caring for children and making space for their freedom and voices in families and other social and political communities. By weaving together an illuminating range of sources drawn from literature, history, philosophy, and personal experience, Weiss convincingly shows that a political concern for children’s well-being is at the social root of any feminist approach to theorizing or realizing freedom and justice for each and all.”
—Eileen Hunt Botting, Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame, and author of Mary Shelley and the Rights of the Child: Political Philosophy in ‘Frankenstein’ and Artificial Life After Frankenstein

Feminist Reflections on Childhood is a beautifully written and thought-provoking book that places children at center stage in feminist discussions of equality and social justice. In her trademark conversational style, Penny Weiss engages with an impressively diverse selection of historical feminist thinkers to envision how to give children the voice and respect that they deserve as members of our political communities. This compelling book is an invaluable resource for scholars and activists committed to rethinking the rights and responsibilities of childhood, family dynamics, childrearing practices, adult-child relationships, and much more. A truly magnificent contribution to feminist political thought.”
—Amber Knight, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte

"This unusual book combines personal reflections with historical research and forays into philosophies and theories of queer studies, disability studies, and science fiction to show that feminists have always taken strong stands on issues pertaining to childhood.... Surveying global feminist manifestos from different eras, Weiss illuminates feminists' deep commitment to children’s issues.... Summing Up: Recommended."

"(Weiss) elevates the sharp political and social analyses of feminist writers that mainstream political theory continues to ignore…. Weiss’s book is an important contribution to feminist political thought that speaks to our current political environment. Weiss provides an essential framework for making sense of twenty-first-century youth activism. She provides a philosophical justification for what political youth—many of whom are girls—already know: any polity that aspires to democratic values of equality and mutual respect must attend to the place and voice of young people.”
Perspectives on Politics

About the Author(s)

Penny A. Weiss is Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Saint Louis University. She is the editor of Feminist Manifestos: A Global Documentary Reader and coeditor of Feminism and Community (Temple), as well as the author of Canon Fodder: Historical Women Political Thinkers and Conversations with Feminism: Political Theory and Practice, among other books.

Also of Interest

Feminism and Community

Edited by Penny A. Weiss and Marilyn Friedman