What are the African women like as mothers in The Women of Brewster Place?

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thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The author attempted to illustrate the lives of African women as mothers by showing their strengths and weaknesses. Mattie’s mother, Fannie Michael, encouraged her daughter after she got pregnant and protected her from her father’s beatings. Mattie’s father was consistently violent towards her daughter because she failed to name the man who impregnated her, a man he warned her about. Fannie was unable to withstand the violence and at one point cocked a shotgun at her husband. This brought her maternal instincts to the fore as she confronted her husband in order to protect her child.

Mattie as a mother spoiled her son, who ended up leading a life of crime. Mattie was unable to reprimand her son because of her own past. She failed to discipline the child and this caused her much grief later on. The son jumped bail which she had posted, when he got into trouble with the law. Due to this, Mattie lost her only investment and moved to Brewster Place. Mattie learned her lesson and developed into a better mother figure to people she met at Brewster Place. For instance, she saved Lucielia’s life by advising and mentoring her.

Lucielia as a mother struggled to please her husband until his true nature was brought to the fore. Lucielia went through an abortion to please her abusive husband. An accident at their home led to the death of their only child. The loss of her children depressed Lucielia to the verge of death.

Cora Lee had the wrong perception of motherhood. She was only interested in having babies but was unable to take care of them as they developed. She saw the babies as play things but with Mattie’s intervention she came to understand that the babies were human, with dreams and aspirations.

Kiswana’s mother, Mrs. Browne, helped her daughter achieve tolerance when dealing with people from different backgrounds. She was able to convince Kiswana that they shared much in common especially with regard to their African heritage. She asserted that despite belonging to the middle class, she was still proud of her African roots. This helped her daughter to better interact with people who were different from her.