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 earth. But for what is she responsible?
Saying that mothers are responsible for the physical well-being of their children and for determining if they grow up physically healthy, obese, or overly thin suggests that women have control over the food their children eat, the amount of exercise that children get, and the kind of living conditions where their children spend most of their time. Nutritious food and a healthy environment, of course, cost money. It is interesting that the author places the burden of ensuring physical health on mothers rather than fathers since, in most 19th-century households, men were the primary wage earners -- although women did a great deal of work in the household to supply daily needs and make the best use of the income that the family did have..
By saying that a mother can "greatly control" children in these habits "if she will," the author implies that women whose children do not have good habits have failed to instill these habits in their children, either through intentionally choosing not to do so or through maternal incompetence..
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.
Interestingly, the author notes that the mother is "to a very considerable extent" responsible for these traits, which leaves open the possibility that she is not fully responsible for a child's temper and disposition. The author goes on to say that "constutitionally, they may be violent, irritable, or revengeful," suggesting that the child's "constitution" may be present at birth and not changeable. However, the author suggests that mothers are still responsible for regulating and correcting "these passions" in their children..
Clearly the author believes that children benefit from the "schools, academies and colleges" which, in many parts of the country, were still relatively new and/or available only to families with the means to pay tuition. The author acknowledges, in saying that a mother is "bound to do what she can" and in referring vaguely to the family's "circumstances," that some mothers may be able to offer more educational opportunities to their children than others through no fault of their own, but the author implies that children are better off attending a school of some kind..
Although the author does not specifically mention Christianity, the references to the Saviour and the Bible imply that the religious education that the author believes that a mother must impart should be a Christian one.?
-- Mother's Journ