This weekend I saw an image on my facecbook newsfeed. The image is below. The image was accompanied by this caption:
"Wow, what a fascinating photograph. I remember my grandmother telling me about her wet nurse. Back in the day, if a woman couldn't nurse ( or simply didn't want to because of their social class ) there would be another woman around who could and would. What do you think about wet nurses? I say- let's bring 'em back! I would nurse a hungry baby that was not my own in a second.
Nurse and Child, USA, ca. 1850.
Source: Getty Museum"
How anyone could post an image like this without addressing the historical impact of slavery and the obvious oppression is beyond me. Call it ignorance if you want, but I believe that for many the choice to remain ignorant comes from the privileges afforded from racial oppression.
Bring wet nurses back? I cannot imagine a system in today's society that would allow for the profession of wet nurses to exist without extreme exploitation of women. On top of that, if it were to resurface as an option, it would only be for women of the upper classes, and would again exploit and demean women of color. No! Can't see it!
Thankfully some people recognized that this image wasn't just about breastfeeding, but many comments from people displayed a lack of concern for the historical implications of this photo, and that is why I leave you with this next image: NEVER FORGET!
Update Friday July 13, 2012: I asked "The Skeptical Mother" why she hadn't responded to all the comments on her photo, she sent me a private message stating that she deleted the photo because of all the ignorant comments.
(Summary, the photo was posted in May, lots of white women loved the photo, commenting how great it was that this woman gave the child such a gift, etc, etc, etc. Somewhere along the line, the photo was shared with black women and in June a lot of black women commented on how offensive it was. All got quiet! A few white folks stood up to support black women, then it was deleted)
She then posted this next photo with the following caption:
A month or so ago, I posted a photo of a baby with her wet nurse. I'm ashamed to admit that I was completely ignorant to the fact that the vast majority of wet nurses during the 19th century in the US were enslaved. My grandmother had a wet nurse in the early 20th century who was german and not enslaved and I think in the back my of mind that that influenced my view of wet nurses. I saw it as something beautiful and noble.. which it *can* be, but certainly not for the many, many women who were forced to leave their own babies in order to love and care for a baby who was not their own. A baby who would some day grow up never to acknowledge what these women truly did for them. I would love for wet nurses to come back, but I think it's also very important that we learn the history behind them and acknowledge their suffering.
According to these new comments, it seems most people had NO IDEA black women in the United States of America were forced into slavery and forced to be wet nurses. And people wonder why we have Black History Month!