Education and Republican Motherhood Outline


Educationand Republican Motherhood


  • Background (history) of the writings

  • Abilities of women

  • Benefits of Educating Women and the differences of educating females and males

  • Republican motherhood


TheRepublican motherhood and the dominant gender definition in America’spost-revolutionary era are both limited to the immeasurable benefitsthat women’s education can achieve, both for the domestic realm andthe society at large.

Background(history) of the writings

Dr.Benjamin Rush was a revolutionary campaigner of education reform.From being an educator, physician, humanitarian and social reformerin Philadelphia, Rush founded the Dickinson College in Carlisle,Pennsylvania and went on to become a Founding Father of the UnitedStates and signed the Declaration of Independence. His groundbreakingrole in women studies and female education is immaculately expressedin his heralded lecture Thoughtsupon Female Education, Accommodated to the Present State of Society,Manners, and Government, in the United States of America. Rushgave this authoritative lecture in 1787 at the first public ceremony.Judith Sargent Murray (1751-1820) was an advocate for women’srights who held voluminous ideas with regard to the education ofwomen that were exceedingly radical for the late eighteenth century.Murray was also an essayist, letter writer, playwright and poet.Murray is honored from her work on better and quality femaleeducation, as well as for women to be empowered and given a publicvoice. She wrote numerous essays, books, poems and plays. Being thegreatest prominent woman essayist of her time, her most importantessay to date is Onthe Equality of the Sexes.Murray wrote this essay in 1779 but published and released it inApril 1790 in the MassachusettsMagazine.

Abilitiesof Women

BenjaminRush and Judith Sargent Murray have divergent assumptions regardingthe abilities of women. According to Rush, as is evident in hiswritings, there is little need to educate women in mathematics,logic, metaphysics, or advanced science. Rather, Rush emphasizes thatwomen should be educated in subjects such as history, poetry, moralessays and religious writings, with the assumption that rudimentaryeducation is more than adequate for the limited needs of women. Thisis unlike the assumption of Murray, whose ideology is that women havehigh intellectual abilities, and should not be conformed to typicalduties that fail to provide any intellectual stimulation. Inaddition, Murray’s assumption is that women are not intellectuallyinferior. Rather, this accusation of inferiority comes fromneglecting girls and encouraging boys to learn.

Benefitsof Educating Women and the differences of educating females and males

Accordingto Rush, educating women is beneficial to both families and thenation at large. Educating women will enable them to raise their sonsto become honorable citizens, benefiting their families in theprocess. Rush also asserts that female education should differ fromthe education given to males while women education is focusedtowards nurturing children and becoming responsible mothers, maleeducation is focused towards making them the “leaders of thefuture”. He particularly emphasizes on the benefit of women’seducation to the American society, saving it from the ruin that wasdevastating British society. This is why at the beginning of hiswriting, Rush explicitly states that the education of women inAmerica should be carried out with very dissimilar principles fromthe case in Great Britain. Rush believes that by educating women, thedecay of American society can be extended, if not prevented, if womenare properly educated (Rush, 23).

Thebenefits of educating women are limitless, Murray asserts in herwritings. Educating women would improve the livelihood of not onlythe married woman in her household, but also that of the unmarriedand widows. This is well addressed in her essay Women’sAttributes as Breadwinners,where she argues that women are entitled to their personal pursuitsshould they decide not to marry. Further, Murray holds a differentview regarding the differences of women education and men education.In fact, she challenges male superiority, evident in her ideals inher essay Onthe Equality of the Sexes,and asks the following of the perceived differences in the intellectof men and women. “Yetit may be questioned, from what doth this superiority, in thusdiscriminating faculty of thesoul proceed. May we not trace itssource in the differenceof education, and continued advantage?”(Constantia 133). Further, she cites the difference between the maleand female sex education through resonating the situation in her ownhome. She criticizes how the female continues to be domesticated asthe years pass, while the male (the brother) is introduced to thepaths of science, which she calls flowery (Constantia, 134).


Rushgave his lecture Thoughtsupon Female Educationas a speech at the Young Ladies’ Academy in Philadelphia. Thislecture presented Rush as a firm believer in the ideals of Republicanmotherhood. Republican motherhood centered on the ideal that thedaughters of patriots should be educated with the objective to defendthe ideals of republicanism, so as to impart republican values to theafterward generation. Therefore, the mother was regarded a custodianof civic virtue with the responsibility to sustain the standards ofher husband as well as children. According to Rush, female educationis very important to particularly children, because it is from womenthat children derive their first impressions.

Rushalso asserts that because women are the custodians of children, theyshould be in accord in all of the plans of the government to educateyoung men, failure to which laws will render them ineffective. Womenwould be qualified for these roles if they are educated in thecustomary women education fields, for example housekeeping andsewing, together with the philosophies of liberty and government. Headds that patriotism should be intensely entrenched in the thoughtsof women because they raise and develop virtue in society. On theideals of Republican motherhood, Murray’s ideas advocate a stancethat is not limited to the domestic territory. This is unlike theideals of the motherhood that restrict women to the domestic fieldMurray suggests that women should obtain the same level of educationas is given to men so as to not only improve their personal lives butbecause it opens a world of economic possibilities to widows and theunmarried.

Inconclusion, in spite of their divergent assumptions regarding women,both Rush and Murray champion for the education of women and agreethat educating women has key benefits. The writings of Rush indicatethat he was a firm believer in Republican brotherhood, which,according to Murray, was limited to the domestic territory. Althoughher ideas on female education are considered enormously radicalduring the turn of eighteenth century, they resonate well in manysocieties today, especially in developing countries where educatingthe girl-child is now a top priority in the education policy.


Constantia.&nbsp“On the Equality of the Sexes”.&nbsp MassachusettsMagazine.&nbspBoston:&nbsp I. Thomas and E.T. Andrews, 1790.&nbsp Vol. II.&nbsppgs.132-135.

Rush,Benjamin. Thoughtsupon female education.Boston: 1787. Retrieved October 8, 2015 from