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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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English 111: Dr. Taimi Olsen
0ctober 09, 2007
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”
“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)
Figure 2: Christoph Wetzel’s “Kartenmotiv E”
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
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
“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
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-
“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”
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.
“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”
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”
Figure 8: Take A Stroll’s “Motherhood”
Figure 9: Johnson+Johnson’s
“JOHNSON’S Toilet and Baby Powder”
Figure 10: Lewis Wickes Hine’s “Group of adolescent spinners in Washington Cotton Mills” May 1911
“mothers needed the help of medically and scientifically trained experts to raise their children”(7)
“preventative medicine was a blundering incomplete practice until bacteriology opened unheard of possibilities for the prevention of disease” (Medicine 2)
-- 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).
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.