Republican Motherhood

The civic unrest that grew amid the minds of colonials and led to revolution between the 1760s and 1780s also perpetuated a state of instability in the colonies. Public disruptions, rebellions, and violent acts against British officials and loyalists occurred along the coast. Linda Kerber summarized the state of female citizenship by writing:

“Revolutionary ideology had no place in it for the reconstruction of women’s roles. But these roles could not help but change under the stress of necessity…” (Kerber, 304).

Husbands and fathers left their families alone for long stretches of time, which transferred responsibility of maintaining family businesses and homes to the women. The females of the house already possessed much of the domestic responsibilities, but the extra work furthered their importance in the household. Paradoxically, the new responsibilities emphasized the necessity of women’s roles. Most of the political mobilization women experienced occurred within the private sphere of the home.

Mothers and wives gained an understanding of the effects they have upon their families, though women’s roles did not surpass the limits of the private sphere. The significance of female virtue enabled the duty of becoming “monitors of the political behavior” of men in their lives in  order to stop the “historical cycle of achievement followed by inevitable degeneration” (Kerber, 303). Philosophers attributed the lack of virtue and presence of pride possessed by the male counterparts as the likely downfall of the new republic, as observed in previous wars in history. Mothers and wives, therefore, had the opportunity to better the new republic in differentiating it from other nation. Surrounded by rhetoric stressing the necessity of a wife utilizing her virtue to “confirm [her husband’s] virtuous habits”, women believed themselves as key players as mothers and wives in upholding the nation and raising the future generations.


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