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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 earthGiven that women, in this period, could not vote or hold office and were excluded from jobs that were well-paying or powerful, it’s interesting that the author chose to compare women’s roles as mothers to Queen Victoria’s role as probably the most powerful woman alive at the time. While the author says that the average woman may have her throne “in a cottage” and “her dominion the little work of household affairs,” he or she compares her responsibilities to those of a monarch, which is striking.. But for what is she responsible?

She is responsible for 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 meagre, is an object of maternal negligence.

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.The author’s use of a garden metaphor for child-rearing is interesting. Tending a garden would have been a common experience to many antebellum readers and any gardener would recognize that without regular tending, a garden typically becomes overrun with weeds and unruly. A well-tended garden, however, takes a great deal of daily attention to fend off insects, invasive weeds and other problems, but rewards the gardener with beautiful flowers, fruits, and vegetables. This seems like an analogy that would have been readily understood at the time.

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

 

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