- Series: Published by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and the University of North Carolina Press
- Paperback: 318 pages
- Publisher: Omohundro Institute and University of North Carolina Press (February 26, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0807846325
- ISBN-13: 978-0807846322
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #257,938 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America (Published by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and the University of North Carolina Press)
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"A major contribution to the history of American ideas.
Gerda Lerner, "Washington Post""
"It broke new ground when it appeared, and is now the standard work for its subject.
Anne Firor Scott, Duke University"
"It is indispensable to understanding the many-sided radicalism and conservatism of the era.
Alfred Young, Newberry Library"
"Kerber's beautifully illustrated book makes for a more profound understanding of women's past.
Pauline Maier, "New York Times Book Review""
"[F]oundation text in women's history, "Women of the Republic" fuses innovation with centrality, clarity of style with sophistication of analysis.
Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, University of Michigan"
A major contribution to the history of American ideas.
Gerda Lerner, "Washington Post"
It broke new ground when it appeared, and is now the standard work for its subject.
Anne Firor Scott, Duke University
It is indispensable to understanding the many-sided radicalism and conservatism of the era.
Alfred Young, Newberry Library
Kerber's beautifully illustrated book makes for a more profound understanding of women's past.
Pauline Maier, "New York Times Book Review"
ÝF¨oundation text in women's history, "Women of the Republic" fuses innovation with centrality, clarity of style with sophistication of analysis.
Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, University of Michigan
[F]oundation text in women's history, "Women of the Republic" fuses innovation with centrality, clarity of style with sophistication of analysis.
Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, University of Michigan
Linda Kerber's Women of the Republic has been a major contribution to our understanding of American political thought, particularly in its relationship to the political role of women. It broke new ground when it appeared, and is now the standard work for its subject.--Anne Firor Scott, Duke University
Kerber has made a distinguished contribution to our understanding of the American Revolution as a continuing, never completed, movement for equality.--Richard B. Morris, Columbia University
Kerber's beautifully illustrated book makes for a more profound understanding of women's past.--Pauline Maier, New York Times Book Review
A foundation text in women's history, Women of the Republic fuses innovation with centrality, clarity of style with sophistication of analysis. It demonstrates the centrality of women's history to political history, of Republican Mothers to the world the Founding Fathers thought they built alone.--Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, University of Michigan
This is a book that continues to open vistas to the American Revolution. It is indispensable to understanding the many-sided radicalism and conservatism of the era. My copy is dog-eared and tattered with use.--Alfred Young, Newberry Library
Kerber finds that because men of the revolutionary generation were unable to think of women as equal partners in their political movement, American women had to invent their own ideology. In this elegant and eminently readable intellectual history, she reconstructs that ideology not only from sources written by women, but from law and from a close study of linguistic, literary and pictorial symbols. . . . A major contribution to the history of American ideas.--Gerda Lerner, Washington Post
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In the first chapter of Women of the Republic, Kerber discusses the how the philosophical foundations of the American Revolution did not establish a place for women in the public sphere of a republic. According to Kerber, Enlightenment philosophers, such as Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and John Locke, who influenced revolutionary thought in the colonies, focused solely on the role men would play in a republic. When these philosophers did mention women, they often relegated them to subservience. For instance, Hobbes saw the state as a "male enterprise" and went on to write that men "are naturally fitter than women...for actions of labour [sic] and danger" (16, 17). Despite his condemnation of the contemporary social order, Rousseau advocated a similar position for women. Kerber describes Rousseau as finding comfort in the fact that women "would remain deferential to their men, clean in their household habits, [and] complaisant [sic] in their conversation" (23). As such, both Hobbes and Rousseau firmly upheld the belief that a man's proper domain is the public sphere, while a woman's is the private sphere. John Locke, on the other hand, suggests that a more equal relationship should exist between men and women, but he stops short of articulating the role that women might play in the public sphere. Based upon these three philosophers' positions, Kerber persuasively argues that the philosophical underpinnings of the American Revolution did not lay a foundation for women in the public sphere of a republic.
Notwithstanding this lack of a philosophical foundation for a public role for women in a republic, the American Revolution provided many ways for women to become involved in the public sphere. While most female patriots did not fight in battle, they did play significant roles in enforcing embargoes against British made goods; creating, distributing, and signing various petitions; managing business matters in their husbands' absence; and ensuring that merchants did not hoard essential goods. Women also became refugees when their communities became battlegrounds. Other women played a more direct role in the war effort as nurses, cooks, and laundresses. Kerber argues that, in these capacities, women did play an important role in the Revolution, but typically on an individual basis and in a way that did not seriously challenge contemporary gender roles. Still, there were some women, such as Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren, who did actively engage in public and private political discourse during this period. Adams demonstrates her passion of politics in a letter to Warren when she writes:
I would not have my Friend immagine [sic] that with all my fears and apprehension, I would give up one Iota of our rights and privilages [sic] ... we cannot be happy without being free ... we cannot be free without being secure in our property, ... we cannot be secure in our property if without our consent others may as by right take it away. (82)
Based upon these examples, Kerber argues that the American Revolution allowed women to establish the foundation for political involvement, while maintaining their domestic responsibilities. Kerber cites the American abolitionist movement of the early 1800s as proof of this assertion.
Nevertheless, the American Revolution was not entirely positive for women. Perhaps most importantly, immediately after the war ended, opportunities for women to become politically involved disappeared. In many cases, women's legal rights also suffered after the war. For instance, while a few state courts upheld women's common law dower rights, several others abolished them. Kerber describes women's loss of dower rights as "the most important legal development directly affecting the women of the early Republic," but the erosion of women's legal rights does not stop there (147). Despite the republican justification for divorce, it was still very difficult for women to attain one. Moreover, despite revolutionary republican rhetoric about justifications for the education of women, they were still constrained by the belief that a woman's proper domain was in the home. Even a contemporary women's magazine warned, "[L]earning in men was the road to preferment ... consequences very opposite were the result of the same quality in women" (198-199).
Despite the postwar setbacks and the cultural taboo surrounding the education of women, literature written by women demonstrates that the Revolution caused a change in the way women understood themselves. Postwar fiction written by women, for example, advocates that during times of conflict, women are best served by controlling their own destinies and not relying upon men to make decisions for them. In describing such a text, Kerber writes, "The message...is simple and obvious...[e]ven in the exigencies of war, women must control themselves and their options" (271). Kerber continues, "[women] who take political positions, make their own judgment of contending sides, [and] risk their lives - emerge stronger and in control" (271). Yet, this position was very controversial. Kerber concludes that the only culturally acceptable way for women to be involved in the public sphere after the American Revolution, was to preach the virtues of the Republic as a patriotic educator in the home. This ideal is known as Republican Motherhood.
Kerber's Women of the Republic is an essential component of the historiography of the early Republic, because it fills in the gaps left by traditional histories of this era, such as Gordon S. Wood's Empire of Liberty. This text also shows that to ignore women, the domestic sphere, and the cultural controversy surrounding women's involvement in the public sphere, is to do a profound injustice to this important period of American history. Perhaps the only weakness of this text is the lack of a proper bibliography, but this omission may the fault of the publisher. Therefore, this reviewer enthusiastically recommends Women of the Republic as an excellent complement to a larger historical synthesis of this period of history.
Wood, Gordon S. Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.
however, it is very well written, arguments are backed, etc. Kerber wrote a masterpeice if this subject interest you.
i only read it for class. so if your looking for some quick info about the book:
the main point of it is republican motherhood: the idea that women in the revolution could have a political influence, without being able to vote, by shaping the ideals and morals of their children, boys to vote and lead, and the girls to raise other good boys.
i would definately read the entire introduction 2 times as it overviews the whole book. the last 10 pages are worth reading too