Rebecca Jo Plant is an assistant professor of history at the University of California at San Diego. Her work focuses on gender relations and the rise of a therapeutic culture in the twentieth-century United States. She is especially interested in exploring how people in the past have constructed a sense of selfhood and the ways in which historical forces have shaped emotional life and interpersonal relationships.
During her time at the Radcliffe Institute, Plant will be completing The Repeal of Mother Love: Momism and the Reconstruction of Motherhood in Philip Wylie’s America, to be published by the University of Chicago Press. The book explores the transformation of motherhood as a social role, a cultural ideal, and a subjective identity in the United States from 1920 to the 1970s. It charts a shift away from a tendency to exalt maternal love as the most selfless of human sentiments toward a more skeptical and psychological view of motherhood. It also shows how the assault on sentimental “mother love” affected everything from women’s political activities to intimate relationships within the home.
Plant received her PhD in history from Johns Hopkins University in 2001. That year her thesis was awarded the Lerner-Scott Prize from the Organization of American Historians for the best dissertation in US women’s and gender history. She has held research fellowships from the Rockefeller Archive Center and Princeton University Library, as well as a postdoctoral fellowship from the American Association of University Women.