The Coquette

The Coquette Republican Motherhood and Wifehood

In the aftermath of the Revolutionary War, women achieved more prominence, but only indirectly. The virtues of self-reliance, independence, and rectitude were celebrated in the new citizenry, and it was up to women to inculcate such virtues. Women were educated in order to teach their children how to be good citizens and leaders. They were also, to an extent, able to be educated in order to be good citizens themselves.  

Women embraced these new opportunities, exulting in the ability to participate in the wider civic culture. While they were not allowed to vote or participate in politics themselves, Republican motherhood gave them somewhat of a new position in society.  

One of the most famous women who exemplified republican motherhood was Judith Sargent Murray, although she was a little bit more radical than others were. She espoused the idea that women were not intellectually inferior because of any inherent deficiency, but because of the way they were raised. She thought girls should learn about women's achievements to be empowered by them. Her essays and poems were widely read.  

The term was not coined until the 20th century, when historian Linda K. Kerber wrote The Republican Mother: Women and the Enlightenment-An American Perspective in 1976. She saw the roots of this ideology in the works of John Locke, who was one of the first prominent intellectuals to suggest that men and women were more equal in a marriage than previously supposed.  

Locke, Sargent, and Mary Wollstonecraft advanced this idea of republican wifehood, a concomitant to republican motherhood. Women were seen as able patriot companions of their husbands, and possessed a greater degree of equality and autonomy (although still firmly within their patriarchal-prescribed spheres).  

In terms of long-term influence, republican motherhood led into the early feminist/suffrage movement of the mid-19th century, and their participation in the abolitionist movement. Mt. Holyoke Female Seminary was founded in 1837 and became one of the most prominent educational centers for female education.