In-Person: WITHOUT CHILDREN by Peggy O'Donnell Heffington

Join us for an in-person event celebrating the release of Without Children: The Long History of Not Being a Mother by Peggy O'Donnell Heffington. For this event, Heffington will be joined in conversation by Kathleen Belew. 

Please note: Pre-registration for this event is required. By pre-registering, you are verifying that you are fully vaccinated and will wear a mask throughout the entirety of the event.


A historian explores the complicated relationship between womanhood and motherhood in this “timely, refreshingly open-hearted study of the choices women make and the cards they’re dealt” (Ada Calhoun, author of Why We Can’t Sleep).

In an era of falling births, it’s often said that millennials invented the idea of not having kids. But history is full of women without children: some who chose childless lives, others who wanted children but never had them, and still others—the vast majority, then and now—who fell somewhere in between. Modern women considering how and if children fit into their lives are products of their political, ecological, and cultural moment. But history also tells them that they are not alone. 
Drawing on deep research and her own experience as a woman without children, historian Peggy O’Donnell Heffington shows that many of the reasons women are not having children today are ones they share with women in the past: a lack of support, their jobs or finances, environmental concerns, infertility, and the desire to live different kinds of lives. Understanding this history—how normal it has always been to not have children, and how hard society has worked to make it seem abnormal—is key, she writes, to rebuilding kinship between mothers and non-mothers, and to building a better world for us all. 

Peggy O'Donnell Heffington is the author of Without Children: The Long History of Not Being a Mother. Her writing has appeared in the New York TimesWashington PostBoston GlobeTIMELos Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. Peggy is an instructional professor of history at the University of Chicago, where she teaches courses on gender and historical research and writing methods. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband Bob and their two pugs, Ellie and Jake.

Kathleen Belew is an author, historian and teacher. Belew spent ten years researching and writing her first book, Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America (2018). Belew has appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show, AC 360 with Anderson Cooper, Frontline, Fresh Air, and All Things Considered, among others. Her research featured prominently in documentaries such as Homegrown Hate: The War Among Us (ABC) and Documenting Hate: New American Nazis (Frontline). As Associate Professor of History at Northwestern University, Belew’s award-winning teaching centers on the broad themes of history of the present, conservatism, race, gender, violence, and the meaning of war. Her next book, Home, at the End of the World, illuminates our era of apocalypse through a history focused on her native Colorado where, in the 1990s, high-profile kidnappings and murders, right-wing religious ideology, and a mass shooting exposed tears in America’s social fabric, and dramatically changed our relationship with place, violence, and politics (Random House).

Accessibility: This event is hosted at the bookstore, which is a wheelchair accessible space. Masks are required. Seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis. To request ASL interpretation for this event, please email by September 6th. For other questions or access needs, please email

Event date: 
Wednesday, September 20, 2023 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm
Event address: 
5233 N Clark St
Without Children: The Long History of Not Being a Mother By Peggy O'Donnell Heffington Cover Image
ISBN: 9781541675575
Availability: On our shelves recently
Published: Seal Press - April 18th, 2023