The essays in this book examine the various uses of the ideology of motherhood in British and American literature from the 16th to the 21st centuries. The book looks not only at the institution of motherhood itself, but also at the social and cultural dictates that patriarchal society places upon that institution. Presenting mothers whose roles are often empowering yet confining, these essays scrutinize motherhood from three distinct literary perspectives: social and cultural impact; significance of maternal absence; and, finally, motherhood as a manifestation of power. Literary works examined include William Shakespeare's ""Venus""; Daniel Defoe's ""Roxana""; Charles Dickens' ""Dombey and Son""; Harriet Jacobs' ""Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl""; John Steinbeck's ""The Grapes of Wrath""; Dorothy Leigh's ""The Mother's Blessing""; and W.S. Penn's ""Killing Time with Strangers"", among others.