Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

A Bunch of MOTHERS!

Grace Jones in Jean-Paul Goude's Constructivist Maternity Dress; New York, 1979.

This week marks the publication of Designing Motherhood edited by Michelle Millar Fisher and Amber Winick. I was honored to be asked to contribute a foreword to this groundbreaking collaborative publication and exhibition on the design of all aspects of becoming (and not becoming) a mother. You can read my text as well as an interview with the curators at Design Miami.

“There is nobody against this—NOBODY, NOBODY, NOBODY but a bunch of . . . a bunch of MOTHERS!” Waiting for his turn to speak at a hearing about the city’s plans to run a divided roadway through Washington Square Park in New York, parks commissioner Robert Moses had heard enough. Although Jane Jacobs and Shirley Hayes, the chief organizers of the Greenwich Village group that had arranged photogenic picket lines of children opposing the loss of their play space, had yet to have their say, Moses was incredulous that they might prevail. Despite his close study of the levers of power, he had failed to consider how those traditionally considered the weakest—women and children—might win a public relations battle. They did so by transforming a subject, motherhood, that women were by their nature supposed to know best from a private concern to a public one, moving it from the home to the streets.

Their protest described an arc that is repeated again and again in the design objects whose stories are told in Designing Motherhood. This arc connects the personal to the political, the interior to the city, and transforms us versus them to, in the end, simply us—because we all arrive here via some process of birth and, at some point and in some way, we all mother. The designs in this book go beyond binaries and biology.