Infamous Mothers Commemorates Mothers’ Strength

Mothers are brave and determined and resilient, and Infamous Mothers: Women Who’ve Gone through the Belly of Hell … and Brought Something Good Back salutes their power.

Sagashus Levingston MA’09, PhDx’16

A coffee-table book that features profiles of 20 caretakers from several generations who have overcome personal hurdles and now make a difference in their communities, the work gives stigmatized mothers a way to tell their own stories and demonstrate their intrinsic value. Infamous Mothers challenges and adds complexity to stereotypes about teen mothers, mothers who have abused drugs, mothers who have engaged in sex work, and mothers who have survived domestic abuse or sexual trauma.

The book is part of a start-up business called Infamous Mothers, founded by Sagashus Levingston MA’09, PhDx’16, herself a mother of six. Levingston’s doctoral dissertation, “Infamous Mothers: Bad Moms Doing Extraordinary Things,” inspired both her book and her business, which offers workshops, classes, public speaking, and training for businesses. It strives, above all, to empower mothers.

“I don’t just talk about the importance of more mothers — especially marginalized ones — becoming CEOs, doctors, scientists, and business owners, etc. I talk about strategies to make it happen,” Levingston writes on her website. “Equally important, I talk about what’s at stake if we don’t.”

Infamous Mothers, which concludes with a study guide, is marketed for use in university courses. “For me, that is my way of getting back into academia — for the books to end up there, and for me to do speaking on campuses,” she told the Wisconsin State Journal in October. “It’s kind of like the Wisconsin Idea … believing that the work of the university has to have a relationship beyond the university, between the university and the community.”