Motherhood identity was intensively deployed during campaigns for the 2019 Indonesian presidential elections. Based on interviews conducted with women’s activists in Jakarta and surrounding areas from September 2018 to April 2019, this article analyses the contestation of ideas about motherhood identity expressed in the campaign rhetoric of the “power of emak-emak” (ordinary, working-class mothers) and “Ibu Bangsa” (Mothers of the Nation). It argues that the “power of emak-emak”, used by the Prabowo-Sandi campaign, is a populist narrative that sought to empower ordinary mothers and was similar to the use of motherhood identity as a populist narrative in Latin America. Meanwhile, the Jokowi-Ma’ruf slate advanced the idea of Ibu Bangsa, which is less related to ordinary women’s daily problems. This article reveals how the debate among women’s activists over the two contending terms signifies the political division of the women’s movement, including in its support for the two presidential candidates. This article not only seeks to enrich the discourse on gender and populism in Indonesia, but also provides a current portrait of the Indonesian women’s movement.