Books by Phyllis Chesler

Cover of Mothers on Trial

Mothers on Trial
The Battle for Children and Custody

by Phyllis Chesler
Lawrence Hill Books. 2nd edition, 2011. 512pp. $18.95
July 1, 2011

Reviews: Kirkus Reviews  •  Joan Pedzich, Library Journal  •  Paula J. Caplan, Psychology Today  •  Kirkus Reviews

Endorsements for the 1986 Edition

"This is an extremely subversive book. It dares to examine the issue of child custody as one power and sexual politics within patriarchal society. It should and will enrage, entice, incite and liberate."
– Kate Millett

"Chesler examines the ironic and painful web that surrounds the myths of idealized motherhood and negligent fatherhood. This book is a must…After all, whose children have we always been: our mothers'."
– Ntozake Shange

"Not since Kate Millet's Sexual Politics or Chesler's own Women and Madness has there been a blockbuster so sure to inspire anger, understanding and action."
– Gloria Steinem

"Once again, Phyllis Chesler has found the words to tell what women know in their bones."
– Judith Lewis Herman, M.D., author of Father-Daughter Incest and Trauma and Recovery

"Meticulously researched, profoundly moving, Dr. Chesler's commitment to the rights of women and children is inspiring. An essential work."
– Erica Jong

"The whole issue of what makes good parents and what rights children and parents should have has not yet been seriously addressed. Phyllis Chesler's work in Mothers on Trial, as in Women and Madness, is groundbreaking and intellectually provocative."
– Shere Hite

Reviews of Mothers on Trial

Library Journal
June 2011

"Fresh, [with] timely content….Heavily documenting her book with legal precedent, expert input, and studies, Chesler makes her case with all of her zeal intact."

Kirkus Reviews
November 1985

"This book could blow the lid off what may well be a scandalous situation in the family court system."

Library Journal
1985

"A stunning and exhaustive indictment of the treatment of mothers by the modern justice system. Highly recommended."

Psychology Today
February 1986

"There is a widespread belief that when marriages break up and child custody is in dispute, mothers nearly always win, fathers very rarely. And given another popular notion—that of the deeply loving New Father who is willing to take on childrearing and housekeeping responsibilities on his own—this state of affairs has come to be perceived as singularly unfair. Phyllis Chesler's mammoth new work, Mothers on Trial: The Battle for Children and Custody, demolishes these claims, demonstrating on the contrary that when fathers choose to sue for child custody, they very often get it…Chesler is a woman of vision and courage who chooses no small or easy tasks. Her earlier books, such as Women and Madness, have become classics, their arguments part of the public consciousness. No brief review can do justice to the scope or style of her current book, a rich fabric of woven of compelling data from her interviews with warring parents, evocations of myth and poetry, and the transcribed voices of mothers on trial."

The Pittsburgh Press
February 16, 1986

"It's a collection of case histories and life stories about women, children and families as a whole that contains engrossing reading on every page, a veritable collection of true short stories. In addition – and fulfilling the basic purpose of the book – it is a serious, scholarly piece of research by a doctor of psychology who has written four other highly praised books on subjects in her field."

Atlanta Magazine
April 1986

"Her findings are both fascinating and shocking….For parents involved in this painful, no-win situation, it is nothing less than an invaluable textbook."

San Francisco Chronicle
March 9, 1986

"Mothers who step out of line, who ignore or [flout] societal conventions, will always lose custody of their children in a custody battle with the children's father. So we are told by feminist Phyllis Chesler. She writes, always dramatically and sometimes poignantly, of the defeat and humiliation of these mothers."

The Women's Review of Books
February 1986

"As Phyllis Chesler's explosive new study shows, the long and short of it is that, should the marital bubble burst, there is one hell of an outstanding chance that your husband, should he choose to fight for it, will be awarded custody of the kids. Indeed, Chesler shows that a custodially challenged 'good enough' mother will lose her kids to her ex-husband seventy percent of the time....If feminists infatuated with motherhood are reading books on child-rearing, books on co-parenting…they are reading the wrong books. If they are not reading Mothers on Trial, they are missing out on information that could prove vital. Because should a custody battle befall you, you may find yourself in a no-win situation which is truly shocking to the unprepared. As Chesler makes abundantly clear, the standards for measuring the goodness, the fitness, of a mother, remain entirely different from those measuring the goodness and fitness of a father. Even in the worst cases? Where the man is, say, abusive? Incestuous? Especially in the worst cases, where the man is abusive or incestuous." …one of the most impressive aspects of this very impressive book is that Chesler continues to present her material with thoughtful clarity and stylistic grace, even when the material itself borders on the morally insane."

Additional Endorsements for the 1986 Edition

"This is a comprehensive, brillian expose of how mothers lose their childeren because they are civilly inferior as women. Mothers on Trial is heart-rending. Dr. Chesler has broken new ground in the fight for women's rights once again in this superb and moving account.'
– Andrea Dworkin

"Exhaustively documented, passionately written, [the book] provides a new conceptual framework… A sound approach to a desperately difficult problem."
– Marge Piercy

"Phyllis Chesler's stunningly original and audacious examination of the double standard of parenthood through the ages challenges us to make systemic changes in both child custody arrangements and the meaning of motherhood itself."
– Letty Cottin Pogrebin

"Chesler eloquently – and finally – breaks the wall of silence and discrimination surrounding the custody battles that women and their advocates have been facing. This book is a work of art. The combination of scholarship, poetry, politics, history, psychology, and legal analysis is stunning. Mothers on Trial is required reading…"
– Joanne Schulman, Staff Attorney National Center on Women and Family Law

"This book finally destroys the myth that men are disadvantaged in custody disputes…This book is an eyeopener for all of us."
– Lillian Kozak, Chair Domestic Relations, Task Force NOW – NY State

"Mothers on Trial confronts every issue, raises every question generated by the struggle for child custody in this culture. This broad-based study and its far-reaching implications will empower embattled women and children, and educate men of good will - it must be read."
– Judith Arcana, author of Our Mother's Daughters and Every Mother's Son

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I recommend this book be put on the reading list of every American school.
--Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Author of Infidel and Nomad

This is a bold book, intimate and rich in detail… Chesler is a voice crying out for women. She will never stop
--Kate Millett, author of Sexual Politics and Going to Iran

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