From Carolina Watchman, January 25, 1845
For What is a Mother Responsible?
A mother is usually also a wife, and has the management of a family and a direct influence over subordination to her head, has the seat of authority and wields the sceptre of government. From a position of entire dependence, she has risen to power and rank, and though her throne may be in a cottage, and her dominion the little work of household affairs, yet is she not the less really responsible, than is that youthful queen who now sways a sceptre over the four quarters of the earthWith this comparison to Queen Victoria, the author conveys the importance that he or she believes a mother's role holds within her own household. While the author says women have risen "from a position of entire dependence," her role, according to this analogy, is one of "authority" and "power and rank" and the author argues that mothers are as responsible for their charges as a monarch is over the territories under his or her command. Launching the article with such a statement makes mothers seem powerful, indeed, and would make it difficult for anyone to question their authority or their power to influence their children in the desired ways.. But for what is she responsible?
She is responsible forThe author repeatedly begins paragraphs with the phrase "She is responsible for..." This kind of matter-of-fact statement to open each paragraph makes the author's point sound irrefutable. If he or she had written these statements differently ("I believe a mother is responsible for..." or "A mother may be considered responsible for...") they would not have nearly the same strength. the nursing and rearing of her progeny; for their physical constitution and growth; their exercise and proper sustenance in early life. A child left to grow up deformed, bloated, or meagreThe author frequently closes paragraphs with a statement that suggests that women have it within their power to control whatever the topic of the paragraph may be. In the case of children's physical constitution, the author says that children who are not physically strong show "maternal negligence;" In the section on habits, the author says that the mother can identify a child's tendencies, good or bad, and "repress or bring them forth;" In the section on principles, the author compares the mother to a gardener who can weed out negative character traits while nurturing positive ones; In discussing temperament, the author says that even though women may not be able to control the constitutions that their children are born with, "for regulation or correction of these passions, a mother is responsible;" In the paragraph on education, the author says that a mother must "see that her sons and daughters have all benefits" of an education within what their circumstances will allow; And in the final section on religious education, the author notes that teaching these ideas is "within the ability of every parent" and asks if children grow up ignorant of spiritual matters, "what mother... can expect them to rise up and call her blessed?" By not only opening each section with a statement that a mother is responsible for a given set of traits but also closing each section by saying that women have complete control over those traits and can influence their children in these ways, the author argues quite forcefully that these are responsibilities that mothers can and must attend to., is an object of maternal negligenceCertainly words like "negligence" are highly emotionally charged. By suggesting that a mother whose child is in poor physical condition is negligent in her duties, the author may inspire guilt or anxiety among mothers who fear being judged if their child had a physical problem. Similarly, the author later uses other emotionally charged words ("parental disregard" or "odious productions") to try to make his or her point..
She is responsible for a child's habits; including cleanliness, order, conversation, eating, sleeping, manners, and general propriety of behavior. A child deficient or untaught in these particulars, will prove a living monument of parental disregard; because generally speaking, a mother can, if she will, greatly control children in these matters.
She is responsible for their deportment. She can make them fearful and cringing, she can make them modest or impertinent, ingenious or deceitful; mean or manly; clownish or polite. The germ of all these things is in childhood, and a mother can repress or bring them forth.
She is responsible for the principles which her children entertain in early life. For her it is to say whether those who go forth, from her fireside, shall be imbued with sentiments of virtue, truth, honor, honesty, temperance, industry, benevolence, and morality, or those of a contrary character -- vice, fraud, drunkenness, idleness, covetousness. These last will be found to the most natural growth; but on her is devolved the daily, hourly task of weeding her little garden -- of eradicating these odious productions, and planting the human with the lily, the rose, and the amaranth, that fadeless flower, emblem of truth.
She is to a very considerable extent responsible for the temper and disposition of her children. Constitutionally they may be violent, irritable, or revengeful; but for regulation or correction of these passions a mother is responsible.
She is responsible for the intellectual acquirement of her children, that is, she is bound to do what she can for this object. Schools, academies, and colleges open their portals throughout our land; and every mother is under heavy responsibilities to see that her sons and daughters have all benefits which these afford and which circumstances permit them to enjoy.
She is responsible for their religious education. The beginning of all wisdom is the fear of God; and this every mother must teach. Reverence for God, acquaintance with His word, respect for the duties of ordinance of religion are within the ability of every parent to implant, and if children grow up ignorant or regardless of the Bible and the Saviour, what mother, when she considers the wickedness of the human heart, can expect them to rise up and call her blessed?
-- Mother's Journ