Interdisciplinary Topics in Law: Mothers in Law (Fall 2019)

Julie Suk (The Graduate Center, Dean of Master’s Programs and Professor of Sociology, Political Science, and MALS)
Sara McDougall (John Jay College, Global History; The Graduate Center, French and History)

Fall 2019, Mondays, 11:45am-1:45pm
Course Number: IDS 81640; MALS 70400

This course will introduce students to central issues in the history and sociology of law through the study of motherhood. The lens of motherhood will open up broader themes in the study of law and society, including categories such as gender, constitutionalism, and criminal justice. Studying the socio-legal history of motherhood will enable students to learn the skills of legal reasoning, utilize methods of legal-historical research, and pursue experiential learning through field studies, panel discussions open to the public, and the authoring of publicly available teaching materials on select topics.

First, we will explore how ideas of women as mothers have been enshrined in law, from the legal definition of the mother in civil law, to the legal treatment of pregnancy.

Second, this course will study women as lawmakers, as “founding mothers” of twentieth-century constitutions, and laws more generally. We will explore biographies of women lawyers and lawmakers.

Third, we will consider mothers as law-breakers, by engaging the history of mothers in prison, and the current legal issues arising from incarceration of mothers. This component of the course may include field trips to engage the criminal justice system.

Click here to view the syllabus for this course


The Futures Initiative
The Graduate Center, CUNY
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New York, NY 10016-4309