Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > "Authors of Their Being": The Enactment of Elite Southern Motherhood, 1750-1820
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This thesis explores the lives of elite white women in Virginia and the Carolinas through their letters and diaries in order to gauge the impact of the Revolution on their methods and conceptions of motherhood. Rather than finding the Revolution to be a rupture and the ideology of republican motherhood to mark a sea change in women's lives, I discover a wealth of commonalities between the attitudes and approaches of mothers on both sides of the Revolutionary moment. I argue that the key changes for mothers which emerged between 1750 and 1820 were related not to the Revolution, but to expanding access to educational tools, changing educational philosophy, and increasing secularization, changes which were inextricably entwined with the Enlightenment. By uncovering women's words about childhood education, children's literature, and gendered goals for young sons and daughters, I prove that the gradual spread of the Enlightenment had a greater impact on Southern motherhood than any one political moment.