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Gender and Morality in Anglo-American Culture, 1650-1800$
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Ruth Bloch and Stephen Miller

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780520234055

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520234055.001.0001

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American Feminine Ideals in Transition

American Feminine Ideals in Transition

The Rise of the Moral Mother, 1785–1815

(p.56) (p.57) chapter 3 American Feminine Ideals in Transition
Gender and Morality in Anglo-American Culture, 1650-1800

Ruth H. Bloch

University of California Press

This chapter demonstrates fundamental changes in the religious, literary, and medical images of mothers between the seventeenth century and the late-eighteenth century. It also provides an interpretation that balances the influence of religious and Enlightenment ideas against the effects of early commercial capitalism and industrialism. It argues that the feminine ideals of practical help in terms of aristocratic refinement gave way to the idealization of moral motherhood. Puritanism in some ways actually lowered the status of women. The lack of emphasis on motherhood in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Puritan literature reflected certain social realities of family life. The rise of the moral mother, even in its more conservative evangelical version, had ambiguous effects on the status of women. The rise of the moral mother also played its part in the long-range upgrading of the social status of women.

Keywords:   moral mother, commercial capitalism, industrialism, Puritanism, religious ideas, Enlightenment ideas, family life

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