Date of Award

Fall 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Robin E. Jensen

Second Advisor

Robin P. Clair

Committee Chair

Robin E. Jensen

Committee Co-Chair

Robin P. Clair

Committee Member 1

Jennifer L. Bay

Committee Member 2

Josh Boyd

Committee Member 3

Deb Koester


This dissertation builds on current breastfeeding-related scholarship by suggesting that the lived experiences of nursing mothers could be effective arguments for initial and continued breastfeeding. To do this, I analyzed archival materials related to La Leche League, specifically League newsletters, and media articles from publications across the United States to determine how the "nursing mother" functioned as a persona throughout the second half of the twentieth century. First, in my analysis of League newsletters I theorized a new category of personae, the constitutive persona, which includes personae used by a collective to attract new members and provide them with language to talk about their experiences. Second, in analyzing the media's coverage of breastfeeding, I argued for an expanded conception of Wander's (1984) third persona that explains how individuals or groups may be both present in a discourse and simultaneously negated. Finally, the dissertation demonstrates a broader perspective on persona theory—one which presents a more complete understanding of breastfeeding discourse and the role of the nursing mother as an advocate for breastfeeding.