Sunday, September 7, 2014

Breastfeeding: "The Revolutionaries Wore Pearls"

Portrait of a Family, Johann Friedrich August, late 18th Century

An excellent post on Reading Treasure / Vive la Queen provided inspiration for this post on breastfeeding and parenting in the Eighteenth Century.   The blogger included beautiful artwork as well.  Click the link to view.  

I swiped the post title from a La Leche League article, below.

I've wondered, sometimes, if the disconnect between parents and children in the 17th and 18th Centuries (and those prior, for that matter) adversely affected the emotional development of those generations.  Hey, I'm searching for answers here and it's not too much of a stretch!  This was back in the day when the earth still revolved around the sun, not the child, like it did at my house.  It was the norm for royal and aristocratic babies and children to spend more time with caregivers than their parents and they were often actually removed from their homes for the first few years of life and sent to live with wet nurses.  Honestly, I don't know much about the lives of the peasantry, nor the middle-class. The illiteracy rate is probably responsible for the dearth of memoirs and letters.  That and they were busy trying to scrape out a living.  From what I've gathered, children worked hard and, though loved, as were children of the upper classes, their emotional needs may not have been met in the way many children's are today - they may not have been as attached and connected as modern psychology would recommend.  It was a rare parent that thought, as many modern parents do, that children's emotional needs are significant and should be considered.  Maybe they "had issues."  Just a thought... I'm thinking aloud here.  I've been told, more than once, that my mothering style went overboard and that I coddled my children too much, so consider the source.

Marie Antoinette nursing Madame Royale

Marie Antoinette was of a generation of young mothers influenced by the dawning of a more enlightened view of children and motherhood.  Her Hameau, gauze dresses, struggle against the bonds of ritual and etiquette all illustrated her natural tendency toward informality and simplicity and were supported and encouraged by the popular trend inspired by Rousseau's writings.  The Queen was probably temperamentally more inclined to be close to her children than her role allowed.  Even before having children of her own she was known, and criticized, for her love of children.  She not only played with them, and occasionally allowed them to run rampant in her apartments, she adopted several - one of them, literally, off the street.  Her involvement in the education of her children and the careful selection of the members of their households reflected an awareness of what she considered to be their needs.   There's quite a bit of evidence, in her own words,  from which we can draw conclusions about Marie Antoinette's parenting philosophy.  She wrote a touching, insightful description of her son, Louis-Charles, to his incoming governess about his fears, strengths, and weaknesses - and the manner in which she'd like them handled.  Letters that she wrote to her mother and brother reflected her mothering style. Others add strokes to the image of Marie Antoinette as a caring mother.  Mercy, her Austrian advisor, among others, complained that she was too involved with her children and not involved enough with the business of influencing her husband to make decisions that were in the best interest of Austria.   Her children, Marie Thérèse and Louis-Charles, both expressed that the time the family spent basically held captive at the Tuileries, then officially held captive in The Temple, had the one happy consequence that they were able to spend more time with their parents.

Coincidentally, the painting that serves as the heading on my blog is of Marie Antoinette, seated, and her daughter, Marie Thérèse, holding the hand of her governess, the Princesse de Guéméné at Le Hameau.  

Anyway, the post to which I linked above mentions Rousseau and his professed views on the family. I agree with his writings on the subject, but he lost credibility when he abandoned his own children in an orphanage.  On the other hand, because I was a member of La Leche League when my children were small, I was uplifted by the example of a more recent public figure in Princess Grace of Monaco.  The reason I became involved with La Leche League, in the first place, was because I was preparing to have my first child, at home, and the midwife, realizing that I knew "absolutely nothing about childbirth or breastfeeding." (She actually wrote that in my file, thank you.)  insisted I go to a meeting to remedy my pathetic lack of knowledge.  I remember the leader commenting on Princess Grace's involvement with the organization and thinking, "Well, she seems pretty normal, so I guess it's okay."  La Leche League validated my instincts about children, parenting, love and life, in general, so I went with it, for better or worse. You'd have to consult my husband and children as to whether it turned out for better or for worse.  

Princess Grace (nee Grace Kelly) with one of her babies

So, I was considering a quick post on the subject, googled "Princess Grace La Leche League" to refresh my memory and came up with the article linked below.  Obviously, the word "Revolutionaries" in the title was a sign that I should do the post.

From the article, The Revolutionaries Wore Pearls

"...  The continuing stream of newspaper and magazine articles spread awareness of the unique benefits of mother's milk through the 1960s. But it was a still-quoted speech by a glamorous and gracious Princess from far away Monaco that splashed the importance of breastfeeding on front pages of newspapers across the country in 1971.
Princess Grace was widely respected as a devoted mother, and it was well known that she had nursed all three of her children. And so as brainstorming got underway for the 1971 Conference in Chicago, someone suggested asking Princess Grace to be the banquet speaker, and she accepted.
On the night of the banquet, Princess Grace's warmth and charm seemed to radiate throughout the hotel. She gave a beautiful speech, honoring the women there for their decision to breastfeed their babies. She made her personal commitment abundantly clear with the line from her speech that is still quoted nearly 40 years later:
"I have many duties and obligations of State along with my husband; but my family comes first....When they first needed me, and I them, there were no compromises; State had to wait upon mother.
"I had never considered anything but breastfeeding when I had children. And when these children came, two girls and a boy, I breastfed them as I always intended to do, simply as something which was to me wholly normal and right. I had never thought about it as anything extraordinary for me to be doing -- neither as a working woman, which I had been in a so-called glamorous profession, nor as the wife of a ruling Prince."

The last time I was as Versailles I was surprised to notice that one of the guards had stood up and given her chair to a mother nursing a toddler.   I walked by, then pretended I was taking a picture of the gilded, sparkly Versailles Hall of Mirrors in order to record this historic sight.  I took it from a distance and cropped it. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Texas - my children's home and heritage - It's growing on me.

Last weekend I drove with David from Austin to his new home in El Paso.  A couple of weekends prior, Micah and I visited Terry's parents in Lubbock and talked extensively of their childhoods in Texas of the early-mid 1900's.  The exposure to the great expanse of Texas must be having an effect on me.  I'm starting to see what Texans have been seeing for generations.  It's kind of cool.

I took this picture from a spot that overlooks the city of El Paso and its sister city, Juarez.  David's home is beyond his right shoulder at the foot of Crazy Cat Mountain. 

Our Mexican neighbors - the border of Texas and Mexico

No need to be worried about population growth.  The 570 miles between Austin and El Paso is practically devoid of people as far as the eye can see.  

It was wonderful to spend a long weekend alone with my son.  

Though I offered to stock his kitchen, the only thing he wanted was his favorite cereal.  Fifteen boxes of it.  And, two containers of raspberries.  

It started with Madame Seriziat. Then I got carried away.

This portrait hung outside of my hotel room on the fifth floor of The Driskill and is a copy of one of Jacques-Louis David's many works. Approaching it made me feel as if I were being welcomed by an old acquaintance.  I recognized it, but didn't know the woman's identity.  The internet being what it is, fifteen minutes later, after sitting in the bar with my laptop, I was able to enlighten my new Best Friend, the concierge, about Madame Seriziat.  He got all excited.  Thus the Best Friend label.

Jacques-Louis David is, as I've mentioned, my favorite and least favorite artist.   It just seems sleazy to profit from the largesse of the monarchy and aristocracy, who were his patrons, then vote for some for their deaths, in the name of the common man, then latch on to Napoleon's glittering star and profit from it.  After some of what I've learned about him recently, I might try to give him some slack.  Once I take a hard line, it's not easy for me to do.  Marie Antoinette have that in common - the tendency to hold a grudge.

David owed Louis XVI for some of the good in his life, yet the early advantages he enjoyed didn't seem to affect David's vote when the final tally was counted.   For one thing, the king awarded him the honor of living quarters in the Louvre towards the beginning of his career.  For another, David met his wife through the king, indirectly, because his wife, Marguerite Charlotte Pécoul, was the daughter of the contractor of the King's buildings.   Initially, Louis XVI encouraged David's art.  He supported the production of the Oath of the Horatii, intending it to be a testament of loyalty to the monarchy.  The work ended up influencing public thought against the king because it became regarded more as a tribute to man's loyalty to the State, as represented by a republic, than loyalty to a monarchy.

As David's art increasingly reflected his growing republican ideals, the King became less of a fan.  He tried, unsuccessfully, to block exhibition of The Lictors Bring Brutus the Body of his Sons with its anti-monarchy political message.

If you'd like to read a brief previous post about Brutus, click here.

This is David's depiction of the famous Tennis Court Oath.  The event took place at a pivotal point in French history which can better be explained by Wikipedia here.  

And, I've mentioned The Tennis Court Oath here.

Before long, David really got down to the business of influencing the public with revolutionary ideas as gets more and more carried away by the Revolution, more and more radical, more and more aligned with extremists like Jean-Paul Marat who, with his journalistic endeavors attempted to whip the weak-minded into a frenzy.  After Charlotte Corday's expert aim quietens Marat in his bathtub, David paints this tribute to him and plans his dramatic funeral.

Previous rambling about Marat can be enjoyed, endured, ignored here.  There are other references to Marat linked to his name on the bottom right column of subject labels.

BUT, WAIT, I just got a little carried away about Jacques-Louis David.  What I started out to write about is the Madame Seriziat painting at The Driskill!  It all ties together.  I'll make it brief and wrap this up.