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Linda Kerber, Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980), 192-193.


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, Kerber addresses the significance in literacy skills and access to print culture.

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“….These disparities in literacy—from the basic ability to sign one’s name and to read simple prose to the sophisticated ability to read difficult or theoretical prose, foreign languages, and the classics—have enormous implications for the history of the relations between the sexes. One of the most important measures of modernization in a society may well be the degree to which print replaces oral communication. To the extent that female culture had relied on the spoken word, it was premodern at a time when male culture was increasing its dependence on written communication. Literacy, after all, is more than a technical skill. It makes possible certain kinds of competencies. It makes practical the maintenance of a communication network wider than one’s own locality. It may promote skepticism about local opinions by promoting access to other viewpoints.”


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