First published in 1890 in Harper’s Bazaar, ‘‘The Revolt of ‘Mother’’’ then appeared the following year, with only a few textual changes, in Mary E. Wilkins Freeman’s second short story collection, A New England Nun and Other Stories.
Freeman is best known for her local color stories that portrayed rural life in small New England towns at the end of the nineteenth century, which was a time of great change. While her use of these elements contributes to her effective picture of the village community, in ‘‘The Revolt of ‘Mother’’’ her emphasis lies more with the oppression and rebellion of women, a theme that she deals with in other stories written during the same period, notably ‘‘A New England Nun.’’ In portraying a main character insistent on receiving fair treatment from her husband, both for herself and her family, Freeman conveys women’s lack of power. At the same time, she puts forth one way to get around such inequality. Freeman also demonstrates other features of the New England village in the late nineteenth century, such as the lessening of importance of the once all-powerful minister and a closely knit community that is fascinated by the transgressive actions of others. All of these characteristics found in ‘‘The Revolt of ‘Mother’’’ further an understanding of New England and the United States’ history.