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Linda Kerber, Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980), 190-191.


Linda Kerber’s 1980 book introduced the concept of “Republican Motherhood,” a term Kerber employed to describe the new role articulated for women in the aftermath of the Revolution. A republican mother, according to Kerber, was one who exercised political responsibilities in the domestic sphere, by raising her sons to be good citizens. Here, she addresses contemporaries’ views of the purpose behind educating men and women.

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“….If learning was intended to prepare young men for active roles in the public sector and for service to the state, the shelter of coverture seemed to make sophisticated learning of little use to a woman. The first European academic institutions had been church related, intended to prepare men for the clerical life; the colleges at Oxford, Cambridge, Paris, and Bologna, which developed and fixed the definition of classical education, were male preserves.…A woman could not enter the academy, because it offered not disembodied knowledge but a classical curriculum designed to prepare young men for survival in a political world, a curriculum in which the requisite skills ranged from polemics and oratory to the making of war…. Americans inherited the image of the learned woman as an uneviable anomaly and kept alive the notion that the woman who developed her mind did so at her own risk.”


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