Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name




Degree Program

History, MA

Committee Chair

Kelland, Lara

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Massoth, Katherine

Committee Member

Massoth, Katherine

Committee Member

Pecknold, Diane

Author's Keywords

gender; women's history; Catholicism; collective memory; history of medicine; feminism


La Leche League International (LLL) is the oldest and largest breastfeeding support group in the world. This thesis examines how, beginning in 1956, seven Catholic housewives from suburban Chicago built up the institutional knowledge to sustain a cohesive global network of breastfeeding mothers. It also explores how LLL managed this knowledge over time in response to developments in scholarship and changing social conditions. Based on a narrative analysis of LLL publications, this thesis argues that the League’s founders drew selectively from existing bodies of knowledge and from their own cultural perspectives to establish a sense of community among breastfeeding women. They enhanced this feeling of connection by suggesting that women across time and space shared the same embodied experience of breastfeeding. This thesis adds to existing studies on La Leche League by drawing attention to how the organization developed institutional knowledge and deployed collective identity and memory.