Disenfranchised Mothers and Maternity Insurance – Tracing Progressive Arguments in Ernest Hemingway’s Short Stories


  • Alina Schumacher Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster




Progressive Era, Feminism, Motherhood, Reception History, Selfhood


Ernest Hemingway’s corpus has often been analyzed towards its perceived focus on a masculine perspective and experience and has therefore taken its female characters as mere dependents and modifiers of this experience. While a number of critics have, in recent years, turned towards gender as a fruitful approach to Hemingway after all, the mother character especially has received very little scholarly attention still. In this essay I explore parallels between Hemingway’s short stories “A Canary For One” and “Hills Like White Elephants” and contemporaneous Progressive, reformist arguments by Olive Schreiner and Elsie Clews Parsons. I will investigate the relationship between mother characters and tropes of maternity in Hemingway’s short stories and the argumentative structures of contemporaneous Progressive texts, aiming to illustrate that the parallels I will point out allow a more differentiated analysis of the motherhood trope within this selection of Hemingway’s short fiction. This essay contends that the mother character in “A Canary for One” and maternity as a concept in “Hills Like White Elephants” together illustrate two instances of non-Progressive womanhood and thereby appear as a fictionalization of the circumstances out of which Schreiner and Parsons develop their progressive arguments towards female selfhood and individuality. 

Author Biography

Alina Schumacher, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

Alina Schumacher holds a Bachelor‘s degree in English Language and Literature and Classics from Heinrich-Heine-University in Duesseldorf and a Master‘s degree in English Literature from the University of Sheffield, where she wrote her master thesis “New Woman or Alternative Masculinity? – Female Characters in Fin de Siècle and 1920s Literature as Indicators of the Capitalist System.” Currently, she is a Ph.D. student at the Graduate School Practices of Literature, which is affiliated with the University of Münster. Her PhD Thesis examines the discursive network of progressive ideology during the 1920s and its repercussions in contemporary novels, with a particular focus on the mother character. Her research interests include Gender and Queer Studies, and the history of feminism.




How to Cite

Schumacher, Alina. “Disenfranchised Mothers and Maternity Insurance – Tracing Progressive Arguments in Ernest Hemingway’s Short Stories”. Current Objectives of Postgraduate American Studies, vol. 18, no. 1, July 2017, doi:10.5283/copas.275.