Five College Women's Studies Research Center

Women Reflect on Aging, Death, and Care-giving

On Tuesday, February 28 at 4:30pm at the FCWSRC at 83 College Street on the Mount Holyoke College campus in South Hadley, Betty Sharpe, Five College Women's Studies Research Associate and independent scholar, will give a talk entitled “Women Reflect on Aging, Death, and Care-giving.”

This presentation investigates nineteenth-century women's writing about aging and end-of-life experiences. Using letters and journals of ordinary and notable women, including Harriet Beecher Stowe, it explores the intersection of the physical and emotional needs of aging women and the obligations of their daughters, particularly unmarried ones, to provide care and to ensure a natural death. For nineteenth century women, the care-giving role was a source of pride and an opportunity for spiritual instruction, as well as a burden. The paper will explore how the skills and attitudes toward caring and death were passed from one generation to the next and how the most intimate mother-daughter experiences occurred when the traditional roles of caregiver and recipient were reversed. (Sharpe flyer)