From Shame to Dignity: Elderly Women, Depression, and the Feminine Self

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1 Scopus citations


The experience of depression is diverse based on social locations and context. This analysis is based on 45 interviews with primarily working-class depressed elderly women who were recruited in primary care clinics in northern central California. They explain their emotional distress by referencing biological and social factors associated with losing a productive self based on domestic labor and the caregiving of others. Some women redirect the trajectory of their distress by resisting hegemonic femininity. However, their efforts lead to a pariah femininity that they are neither fully at ease with nor that resolves their emotional distress. For a few women an alternative discourse of a dignified feminine self emerges in the context of friendships and faith. Depression in working-class elderly women can be characterized by an ongoing negotiation of limited statuses and roles in which control over one’s self is paramount.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSociological Perspectives
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018


  • aging & self
  • and class
  • depression
  • elderly women
  • gender
  • in-depth interviews
  • race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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