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Barren in the Promised Land

Barren in the Promised Land

Childless Americans and the Pursuit of Happiness

Elaine T. May

ISBN 9780674061828

Publication date: 04/25/1997

Chronicling astonishing shifts in public attitudes toward reproduction, from the association of barrenness with sin in colonial times, to the creation of laws for compulsory sterilization in the early twentieth century, from the baby craze of the 1950s, to the rise in voluntary childlessness in the 1990s, to the increasing reliance on startling reproductive technologies today, Elaine Tyler May reveals the intersection between public life and the most private part of our lives—sexuality, procreation, and family.


  • May documents a continuing American obsession with reproduction and shows how this public embrace of childbearing has inflicted anguish on childless women across the centuries.

    —Susan Chira, New York Times Book Review


  • Elaine Tyler May is Professor of American Studies at the University of Minnesota.

Book Details

  • 336 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press