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Changing Views of Motherhood Danielle Armstrong English 111: Dr. Taimi Olsen Tusculum College 0ctober 09, 2007. Sarah J. Hale .

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Changing Views of Motherhood

Danielle Armstrong

English 111: Dr. Taimi Olsen

Tusculum College

0ctober 09, 2007

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Sarah J. Hale

Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book from1837-1877, was a prominent advocate for women’s advancement. According to Lisa Niles, author of “Sarah Josepha Hale”, her magazine was America’s leader in women’s literature and fashion (1). It included a wide range of topics, some of which are health, beauty, cooking, gardening, and architecture. Not only did she write “Mary Had A Little Lamb”, but she also wrote many other poems and novels, helped declare our Thanksgiving as a national holiday, and raised money for the completion of the Bunker Hill monument (Niles 1).

Figure 1: Untitled picture from David

Crumm’s article “Happy Thanksgiving”

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Above all she promoted the education of women so that they may in turn educate and care for their children. Hale incorporated tips for writing and works of famous authors such as Poe, Longfellow, Emerson, and Hawthorne to help women learn how to write better. She also accepted original works from contributors (Niles3).

“In this age of innovation, perhaps no experiment will have an influence more important on the character and happiness of our society than the granting to females the advantages of a systematic and thorough education”

-- Sarah J. Hale (1)

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In the May 1850 edition of Godey’s Lady’s Book volume XL is one such contribution. In this unsigned article on page 304 a man and his wife’s friends debate whether or not a “mother’s instinct” is inherent from birth or learned through her education and rearing. The man is under the impression that women act how they do because of how they are raised. Trying to prove his point he mentions how his little girl has never played with dolls because he “will not permit such a thing to come into his house”.

Figure 2: Christoph Wetzel’s “Kartenmotiv E”

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Figure 3: “Playing Mother” page 305 of the May 1850 edition of Godey’s Lady’s Book

The woman in the article below argues with the man visiting her home and strongly opposes his idea. She, like many of this time period, believes that women are born with a natural sense of how to care for children. To prove her point, she says that they should seek out the child and see how she is playing. Anna is found to be wearing a discarded bonnet and nursing a bunny. She pretends to be its mother. It is easy to see from this plate on page 305 and the article on page 304 that motherhood in the mid-nineteenth century was seen as instinctual; containing occasional help from mothers or neighbors.

Engraved by W.E. Tucker from an original picture loaned him by the owner in London

figure 4 playing mother pg 304 of the may 1850 edition of godey s lady s book
“It’s just as you raise them,” said Mr. Warner,

in his dogmatic way. “I don’t believe in a boy’s

taking to a hammer and a girl to a doll, from an in-

stinct of nature. Girls are different because they

are educated differently. There is no other law in

the matter.”

“My experience,” said a lady, who made one of

a little company numbering about half a dozen, and

she spoke in a quiet way, “leads me to a different

conclusion. Each sex has a use in society pecu-

liarly its own; and, from the earliest childhood,

impulses pointing thitherward may be seen. Gentle,

tender, and loving are the uses of woman, and for

these she is fitted by nature. Hardier, rougher,

bolder is the man, because he is designed for a

different sphere of life. The boy takes the hammer,

the whip, or any other plaything that is noisy, or

calls for the exercise of strength and action; while

the girl, as naturally, busies herself with her doll, or

her cups and saucers.”

“Simply,” replied Mr. Warner, “because you

provide a hammer and whip for the one, and a doll

for the other.”

Figure 4: “Playing Mother” pg 304of the May 1850 edition of Godey’s Lady’s Book
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“No,” returned the lady, “the cause lies deeper

than this. It is radical. How is it with your own

little Anna? She is here to-day.”

“She never had a doll in her life. I will not per-

mit such a thing to come into my house. I wish to

develop the strength, not the weakness of her cha-

racter.” And, as Mr. Warner spoke, he threw a

glance upon his wife, which said, plainly enough,

“This wouldn’t be so, if you had your way.”

“Oh!” remarked the lady, “then you are trying

to warp her character to suit your own theory. You

are not willing to let it develop naturally, and, as I

would say, healthfully.”

“I wish to give it a strong and healthy develp-

ment.”

“Then it must grow from inward elements. If

you warp it, as you are certainly doing, you will

weaken and deform, instead of producing beauty,

health, and strength.”

Figure 5: “Playing Mother”

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“So you think,” said Mr. Warner, a little rudely.

Opinionated men are very often rude to ladies.

“Yes, I think so,” replied the lady, not seeming

to notice the gentleman’s manner.

“Where is your dear little girl?” asked one of

the company, a little while after, addressing Mrs.

Warner.

“She’s playing about the garden. I saw her from

the window a few minutes ago.”

“It would be a pleasant experiment,” said the

lady with whom the child’s father had held the con-

troversy, “just to take a look after Anna, and see

what she is doing. I’ll warrant that the girl’s in-

stincts are predominant in her acts. You’ll not find

her dragging up the flowers, nor throwing stones at

the birds, nor even digging in the dirt.”

“You’ll probably find her racing about with the

boys,” said the father.

Figure 6: “Playing Mother”

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“Anna!” called the mother. They listened, and

her sweet, young voice was heard faintly answer-

ing. Guided by the sound, she was soon discovered

by those in search of her.

“What is she doing?” asked Mr. Warner, who

did not at first see her distinctly.

“Playing mother!” replied the lady with whom

he had held the controversy. And she spoke in a

tone of triumph.

“Nonsense!” said Mr. Warner.

“See for yourself.”

“The little witch!” exclaimed the father, affected

with pleasure, in spite of himself, by what he saw.

Anna had found a cap belonging to the lady at

whose house they were visiting, and, with this

drawn upon her head, was nursing a rabbit with the

earnest fondness of a mother.

The ladies caught the happy child in their arms,

and almost devoured her with kisses, while Mr.

Warner escaped back into the house, to re-arrange

his forces for a new battle on his favorite hobby.

Figure 7: “Playing Mother”

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The article above says, “Gentle, tender, and loving are the uses of woman, and for these she is fitted by nature.” Society saw women as having an instinctual knowledge of how to raise children. According to Discovering the American Past: a Look at Evidence, in the nineteenth century, we thought women had certain natures because of being born female. These natures are not learned but biologically natural; an inherent part of being born female (136).
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This idea that women automatically are born with the knowledge to care for children did not last for very long. Rima D. Apple concurs with this thought in her book Perfect Motherhood: Science and Childrearing in America and states that “instinct and tradition in childrearing were replaced by all-important medical and science advice” (2). Today, we always consult a nurse or physician, so that our children are as healthy as possible. Why did this image change?

Figure 8: Take A Stroll’s “Motherhood”

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Early in the nineteenth century, medical care was given at home by a mother. She might consult her neighbors or mother for advice. Sometimes she would have a home medical book to refer to or she would know certain herbal remedies. If she lived in an urban area she could seek advice and medicine from a pharmacist. Physicians were only turned to in cases of the very ill (Apple 3). Mostly women were thought to have all the knowledge required to raise healthy and robust children.

Figure 9: Johnson+Johnson’s

“JOHNSON’S Toilet and Baby Powder”

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This idea changed at the turn of the century. Apple states that “ changing family size, growing industrialization and urbanization, and emerging technological innovation all served to transform life in the U.S. in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and maternal functions within it” (6).
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Women no longer had as many children due to the widespread use of birth control, the amount of women joining the workforce, and young women waiting longer to have children. Young married women did not have as much knowledge of babies since they had fewer siblings to help look after. In line with this idea, Discovering the American Past points out that many young women aged thirteen to thirty left their homes in order to help contribute to their families by working in textile mills (37). Since they were working at this age they no longer were getting married young and beginning large families.

Figure 10: Lewis Wickes Hine’s “Group of adolescent spinners in Washington Cotton Mills” May 1911

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Due to the growing industry, women moved around with their husbands and had fewer children. They could no longer depend on the knowledge of their mothers before them and did not trust their neighbors (Apple 7). Education and literacy became more widespread in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries than earlier. Women began to realize the importance of understanding how to care for their children properly and they began to search for ways to do this. Books on child care and childrearing increased with guidance informed by science and medicine (Apple 8). Some women were confident in their own abilities, some read widely and based their choices on “contemporary science”, and others turned to doctors for instructions on infant and childcare (Apple 12).

“mothers needed the help of medically and scientifically trained experts to raise their children”(7)

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During the early twentieth century, modern science evolved into what it is today. Apple states that “developments in bacteriology, nutrition, and physiology heightened public awareness of the potential benefits of modern science and medicine (16). According to “Medicine of the Nineteenth Century”, scientific investigation replaced the concept of “philosophic discussion of theories” (1). The sources of diseases appeared and doctors began to cure ailments such as whooping cough, diphtheria, and croup which had previously killed many infants and young children. Women began to trust physicians with the care of their children when they saw the benefits involved. The old idea of domestic motherhood transformed into one of scientific motherhood where women researched the proper manner to raise a child and who the best doctor was.

“preventative medicine was a blundering incomplete practice until bacteriology opened unheard of possibilities for the prevention of disease” (Medicine 2)

--Dr. Osler

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True motherhood is the most beautiful of all arts, the greatest of all professions.

-- David O. McKay

In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century women began to think of motherhood as a profession. According to Apple this “rejected the idea that women as women had a unique and instinctive knowledge of things maternal” (22). Mothers who changed this idea began to read more literature on childrearing, consulted experts, and took their children to physicians. In Ladies Home Journal, Helen Watterson Moody said in 1899 that motherhood can be equated with “enlightened knowledge conscientiously acquired and carefully digested” (22). When literacy became more widespread, industrialization and urbanization expanded, and technology and modern science evolved women saw the need of looking to experts on how to raise children. This is why motherhood became a profession. Women were thought to need “assistance in raising families healthfully and that this assistance would be in the form of medical and scientific expertise” (22).

works cited
Works Cited

Apple, Rima D. Perfect Motherhood: science and childrearing in America. 2006. Netlibrary. 6 October 2007.

Crumm, David. “Happy Thanksgiving.” Spirit Scholars. November 22, 2006. 4 October 2007.

Discovering the American Past: a Look at Evidence. 3rd ed. vol.1. William Wheeler and Susan Becker. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1994.

Hine, Lewis Wickes. “Group of adolescent spinners in Washington Cotton Mills, Fries, Va.” May 1911 Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC). 4 October 2007.

“JOHNSON’S Toilet and Baby Powder.” Johnson+Johnson. June 8, 2007. 6 October 2007.

McKay, David. O. “Mothers Quotations Part 4.” Weird Web Sites: Weird Quotation Collection. 6 October 2007.

“Medicine of the Nineteenth Century.” JAMA 100 Years Ago. Ed. Jennifer Reiling. February 7, 2001. 6 October 2007.

“Motherhood.” Take A Stroll. 2007. 6 October 2007.

Niles, Lisa. “Sarah Josepha Hale.” Domestic Goddesses. Ed. Kim Wells. July 2007. 5 October 2007.

“Sarah J. Hale quotes.” Thinkexist.com January 2004. 5 October 2007.

Wetzel, Christoph. “Kartenmotiv E.” ProMoM. June 25, 2007. 6 October 2007.

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