The sins of the mother visited upon the next generation

The sins of the mother visited upon the next generation

On a topic related to the immediately previous one, the daughter of feminist icon Alice Walker recounts that while her mother was off saving the women from oppression, she wasn’t being a very good mother.

Walker’s success as a campaigner was to her detriment as a mother. Like Dickens’s Mrs Jellyby, who neglects her home and her children as she directs her energy towards the poor of Africa, so America’s icon often went to feminist meetings and rallies and left Rebecca to fend for herself. Her daughter experimented with drugs and became pregnant at 14.

“My mother did a lot of leaving to go to her writing retreat, which was over 100 miles away — so she’d go there and leave me a little bit of money, leave me in the care of a neighbour,” recalls Rebecca, now 38.


Walker had also joined the early feminist movement — Gloria Steinem is Rebecca’s godmother — and it was her politics, more than anything, that shaped mother-daughter relations. The so-called “first wave” feminists believed that housework was another form of slavery and that women did not have an innate need to nurture but had been conditioned into their subordinate role as wives and mothers through centuries of patriarchy.


When Rebecca became pregnant at 14, Walker wasn’t shocked: she calmly picked up the phone and arranged an abortion. “Her feminist thing was about empowering me to have an active sexuality and to be in control of my body, and that trumped any sense of boundaries,” Rebecca says.

What happens when you strip away one half of what it takes to create a just, loving, and nurturing society? You cripple its ability to raise up whole and hale children to populate the next generation. You essentially sow the seeds of its destruction.

Feminism was supposed to free women from oppression and lead them to self-fulfilled happiness. Rebecca Walker is proof positive that the women who followed the ideology most closely “freed” themselves at the expense of their daughters and generations of women to come, not to mention sons and husbands.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli