The Centuries-Old Frustrations of Motherhood

November 11, 2019, 1:18 PM UTC

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Whitney Wolfe Herd takes over Bumble’s parent company, The Wing gets caught up in WeWork’s pregnancy discrimination case, and women of the 19th century provide some perspective on the frustrations of motherhood. Have a lovely Monday. 


- A tale as old as time. When we talk about the challenges of motherhood, those conversations are often focused on the present moment: our lack of federal paid family leave, the inaccessibility of affordable childcare, and the general frustrations of, yes, balancing work with parenting. 

A fascinating piece in the New York Times makes the case that mothers have been frustrated by the job for centuries. Specifically, since the early 19th century, when cultural norms shifted to expect women to find fulfillment at home—a change from the Middle Ages, when parents believed their children were "hell-beasts," or colonial America, where women were busy working and older siblings often raised young children. 

Women of the 1800s didn't adapt to the "cult of true womanhood" without complaint, NYT parenting editor Jessica Grose found. In the words of a woman named Laura Wirt Randall in 1828, on nursing: “I declare if I tho’t I was to be thus occupied for the rest of my life, I would—I was going to say—lie down & die.” 

The pressure to find joy in motherhood, rather than to just be a mother, changed everything. I highly recommend reading the rest of Grose's piece for the full history—and some quotes to put the frustrating moments in perspective. Like this gem from Loula Kendall Rogers in 1864: “I fear I am not very charitable towards babies, as I find myself at such times wishing for a ‘lodge in some vast wilderness, where the cry of babies might never reach me more.’”

Emma Hinchliffe


- Bumble and Blackstone. Blackstone Group took a majority stake in MagicLab, the parent company of Bumble. MagicLab founder and CEO Andrey Andreev—who was accused of allowing a sexist work environment to flourish at his companies in a July investigation—will sell his stake and step down, and Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd will become CEO of the entire operation. Forbes

- Wing and WeWork. WeWork is divesting from its stake in women's co-working company The Wing. The announcement comes shortly after WeWork chief legal officer Jennifer Berrent was named as a defendant in the pregnancy-discrimination case filed against former CEO Adam Neumann. Berrent, a member of The Wing's board of directors, is accused of calling WeWork employee Medina Bardhi's pregnancy a "problem" that needed "to be fixed" (WeWork said the company would "vigorously defend itself" against the claims). Berrent is expected to lose her seat on The Wing's board of directors when WeWork sells its stake, Bloomberg reports. The Wing cofounders Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan said they "find these allegations appalling." 

- How do you like them Apples? New York state regulators will investigate the algorithm governing creditworthiness of applicants to Apple and Goldman Sach's Apple Card. A software developer described what he called the sexist bias of the Apple Card, which granted him a higher limit than his wife, who had better qualifications. New York Times

- Reading list. Nikki Haley's book is out on Tuesday, and it's already making headlines. The former UN ambassador writes that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former White House chief of staff John Kelly tried to recruit her to "work around and subvert" President Trump. Haley says she declined. Washington Post

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: As part of Le Tote's acquisition of Lord + Taylor from Hudson's Bay Company, Le Tote chief merchandising officer Ruth Hartman is now president of Lord + Taylor. Sarah Levy, chief operating officer of Viacom’s Media Networks group, is reportedly set to depart after the CBS-Viacom deal closes. 


- Blast from Bloomberg's past. The news last week that Michael Bloomberg may soon enter the 2020 race for the Democratic presidential nomination brought to mind, for many, his history with women in his workplaces. The Daily Beast examines why many Democrats see those issues as disqualifying in this election, and this 2018 piece in the Atlantic provides a definitive refresher on Bloomberg's reported history of making disparaging comments about women's appearances at work. 

- About that abortion rights letter. In June, nearly 200 executives signed an open letter arguing that restrictions on abortion and reproductive healthcare were "bad for business." For Fortune, Jess McHugh examines the rise of values-driven workforces and how business leaders came around to speaking out. Fortune 

- State of the spinoff. The departure of Gap Inc. CEO Art Peck is leading some investors to question the company's plans to spin off Old Navy into a standalone company. Gap Inc., however, says it will move forward with the plan. (Speaking at Fortune's MPW Summit last month, Old Navy CEO Sonia Syngal described the process as being "seven-and-a-half months pregnant with a 10-pound baby and we’re ready to deliver.") Fortune

- Media matters. An investigation in Jezebel last week revealed how bosses at Vice, now led by CEO Nancy Dubuc, and The Fader allegedly ignored sexual misconduct until employees began talking about it publicly on Twitter. Also: The allegations reported about gender discrimination at G/O Media are now part of two lawsuits. Nadine Jarrard, former G/O vice president of West Coast sales, sued the company for gender and pay discrimination and negligent hiring; Michael McAvoy, former CEO of The Onion, alleges that G/O Media CEO Jim Spanfeller fired him because he raised concerns about Spanfeller's treatment of women at the company. G/O Media denies the allegations in both lawsuits. 


Meet Yolande Milan Batteau, wallpaper atelier to the elite Fortune

Jennifer Aniston is angry now, and it's thrilling to watch BuzzFeed

Lindsay Peoples Wagner on her first year as editor of Teen Vogue Business of Fashion

U.S. women's soccer team granted class status in equal pay lawsuit New York Times


"Do I think we would be standing on that stage if we had the experience that he had? No, I don’t."

-Sen. Amy Klobuchar on the female candidates for president and 2020 competitor Mayor Pete Buttigieg


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