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Republican Motherhood

  • By: Carolyn Herbst Lewis
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

Republican motherhood was the ideology that defined women's political role in the early American Republic by their capacities as the mothers of future citizens, rather than by the granting of equal participation in the rights and obligations of full citizenship. The term republican motherhood was first coined in the 1970s by American historian Linda Kerber. While examining the American reaction to the 1789 publication of Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Kerber discovered that there was widespread public discussion about the proper political role for women in the emerging republic. Republican ideology was predicated on citizens who were virtuous, productive, and committed to promoting the public good over individual self-interest. Following the American Revolution, the rights and obligations of citizenship were quite clear ...

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