We Have Raised All of You: Motherhood in the South, 1750-1835 Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
Creator
  • Smith, Katy Simpson
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
Abstract
  • Motherhood in the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century South was comprised of multiple roles that white, black, and Indian women constructed, interpreted, and defended. I focus on women in Virginia and the Carolinas to prove that these roles, from nurse and teacher to economic provider, shaped holistic maternal identities that offered women of all backgrounds a sense of power, control and self-worth within the pervasive hierarchies of the South. An examination of women's maternal experiences reveals that the dictates of Revolutionary-Era prescriptive literature regarding Republican Motherhood - the belief that women had an obligation to raise the next generation of virtuous male citizens - had little concrete effect on the ways women performed their duties as mothers. On the contrary, motherhood as an institution driven by women exhibited continuities that spanned the Revolution and encompassed roles and responsibilities that were dependent on a woman's race, class, and region. I argue that mothers enjoyed expansive female networks of communication and support, creatively used every available tool to educate their children, and almost universally perceived their maternal roles to be sources of meaning, personal worth, and communal consequence. This study of motherhood examines practices rather than prescriptions in order to reveal the ways in which a diverse group of women struggled to create ennobling definitions of motherhood in the early American South.
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  • In Copyright
Advisor
  • DuVal, Kathleen
Degree
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2011
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