As revolution stirred the colonies, the colonials once again contemplated upon which values they would base a new nation. European enlightened thinking arrived across the ocean in time for the growth of the nation. Philosophers such as John Locke and Thomas Paine caused a significant impact on enlightened reasoning and the belief in the rights of men. Equal rights to suffrage and education became an important ideal for the freedom of the nation. Male education emphasized classical studies such as Greek, Latin, history, and philosophy in order to perform well as citizens. However, the leaders revised the suffrage ideal to be exclusive to “free white male citizens twenty-one years of age, worth fifty pounds proclamation money, clear estate” (Solomon, 12).
Doctor Benjamin Rush, a founding father of America, presented ideas that both aided in the formation of American education and contradicted enlightenment theory. In his essay “A Thought Upon the Mode of Education Proper in a Republic,” he discussed the extreme importance that education had in the formation of a successful republic. He urged colleges to focus more on mathematics and natural sciences, in addition to functioning languages such as French and German. Rush contributed to the concept of educational equality.
” I am sensible that they must concur in all our plans of education for young men, or no laws will ever render them effectual. To qualify our women for this purpose, they should not only be instructed in the usual branches of female education, but they should be taught the principles of liberty and government; and the obligations of patriotism should be inculcated upon them. The opinions and conduct of men are often regulated by the women in the most arduous enterprizes of life; and their approbation is frequently the principal reward of the hero’s dangers, and the patriot’s toils. Besides, the first impressions upon the minds of children are generally derived from the women. Of how much consequence, therefore, is it in a republic, that they should think justly upon the great subject of liberty and government!” – Benjamin Rush, “A Though Upon the Mode of Education Proper in a Republic.”
Dr. Rush did not believe woman should obtain an education with men. The education of women would prove to be similar, though not equal, to that of men. Furthermore, Rush understood the influence mothers and wives incited over society from within the private domestic sphere. He urged the founding men to remember the role women could play in building the new republic. The new purpose added to female education did not change women’s roles, but rather expanded them. The increased importance thus gave rise to the “republican motherhood” ideology.