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?
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.
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?
-- We don’t know much about the person who created this source or his or her motivations, but we do know that the article was published in Mother’s Journal and then republished in the Carolina Watchman and, presumably, other newspapers, so these thoughts were intended for broad public consumption. We might ask whether the author would have written these ideas down the same way if another audience had been intended — or, as in the case of a diary, no audience at all. Often, authors will approach a subject very differently when they consider it privately or apply it to their own lives than they might when writing for a broad public audience. (Why might that be? Are there ideas that you might kick around with friends but would not want to publish in a school newspaper? Are there conventions or expectations for formal writing that may shape the way you frame your ideas, even if you might express your ideas quite differently informally? Do you think that people writing for a broad audience may sometimes be inclined to pander to their expectations of the audience or, in other words, tell people what they think they want to hear?) The article focuses on mothers’ responsibilities and, presumably, the author intended for the audience to agree with him or her about the duties and responsibilities of a good mother. Since the article addresses issues that may be a matter of some debate — one might argue that the father is responsible for some of the things mentioned in the article, or might argue that some aspects of a child’s temperament are outside the mother’s control, for example — the article seems to have been intended as a persuasive argument supporting the author’s point of view. Do modern newspapers tend to run articles like this that detail the opinions of one or more authors on issues of concern to the readership?.