Peggy O'Donnell Heffington - "Without Children"

Tuesday, January 23, 2024 - 6:00pm - 7:00pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
Peggy O'Donnell Heffington

Peggy O'Donnell Heffington will discuss Without Children: The Long History of Not Being a Mother. She will be joined in conversationn by Tara Zahra. A Q&A and signing will follow the discussion.

Presented in partnership with the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality.

At the Co-op

RSVP HERE (Please note that your RSVP is requested but not required.)

About the Book:  Without Children: The Long History of Not Being a Mother takes some of the reasons women cite for not having children today—a lack of community support, a need to prioritize their jobs or finances, fear about our environmental future, infertility, and the desire to live different kinds of lives—and shows that none of them are new. History is full of women without children, it turns out: some who chose lives that did not include children, others who wanted children but never had them, and still others—the vast majority, then and now—who fell somewhere in between.

But American society has worked hard—and continues to work hard—to make a life without children seem abnormal. The battle lines of what one writer has called “the civil war” between mothers and non-mothers were given to us, Heffington shows, by a society and a history that sought to limit women’s options to motherhood—and that punished anyone who dared do other things. Understanding this complicated history is key to rebuilding community support and kinship among all women, whether or not they have children of their own.

Without Children is a story about ambivalence, money, family, climate, culture, and the economic and social structures that conspire to make having kids or not feel less like a choice and more like a destiny, whichever side we end up on. Ultimately, it is a history of women without children, but it’s also a call for mothers and non-mothers to recognize our shared predicament—and to challenge our shared fate.

About the author: Peggy O'Donnell Heffington is a Senior Instructional Professor in the Department of History at the University of Chicago. She received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and previously held postdoctoral fellowships at the United States Military Academy at West Point and the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights at the University of Chicago. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, TIME Magazine, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and Jezebel. Without Children was recently included on the Washington Post's list of 50 notable works of nonfiction from 2023. It is her first book.

About the interlocutor: Tara Zahra is a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a professor of history at the University of Chicago. Recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she lives in Chicago, Illinois.

Event Location: 
Seminary Co-Op
5751 S Woodlawn Ave
Chicago, IL 60615