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Linda Kerber, Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980), 198.


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 how those who engaged in efforts to reform and improve women’s education had to combat negative attitudes and skeptism.

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These women were not creating their own paranoid images of discouragement. The very newspapers for which they wrote often printed articles insisting that intellectual accomplishment was inappropriate in a woman and that the intellectual woman was not only an invader of a male province, but also somehow a masculine being. “Women of masculine minds,” wrote the Boston minister John Sylvester John Gardiner, “have generally masculine manners, and a robustness of person ill calculated to inspire the tender passion.” Noah Webster’s American Magazine, which in its prospectus had made special appeal to women writers and readers, published this unsigned comment: “If we picture ourselves a woman…firm in resolve, unshaken in conduct, unmoved by the delicacies of situation, by the fashions of the times,…we immediately change the idea of the sex, and…we see under the form of a woman the virtues and qualities of a man.”


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