Introduction | A Woman's Power | Breastfeeding  | The Mother's Duty | The "Dangerously Good" Mother | The "Naturally Bad" Mother

The Mother's Duty: Fostering Future Citizens of the British Empire

Mother Awoken by Her Crying Child. The home was the Romantic woman's primary sphere of influence. It was here that she reared the future citizens and leaders of her country.
During the Romanic era, a woman's primary sphere of influence was the home, where her power lay in the fact that she was bringing up the future citizens of England. Literature of the time demonstrated that this responsibility affirmed the mother's place in society. At the same time, literature explored questions about the ability of such "naturally sympathetic" creatures to rear rational and disciplined future adults.

Emile, Rousseau's influential text on the individual's place in society, expressed concerns that mothers who were overly indulgent toward their children - and thus neglectful of their responsibilities as a parent - crippled a nation by producing citizens unwilling to sacrifice personal desires for the goals of a nation. In Vindication of the Rights of Women, Mary Wollstonecraft also stressed the need for a rational approach to rearing future citizens: "If children are to be educated to understand the true principle of patriotism, their mother must be a patriot; and the love of mankind, from which an orderly train of virtues spring, can only be produced by considering the moral and civil interest of mankind". A proliferation of conduct books in the era such as Hannah More's Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education, published in 1799, taught mothers to rear socially responsible and productive citizens.

Julia McLeod

Select Bibliography

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