Did the perceptions and role of women change around the time of the Declaration of Independence?
What did the Enlightenment article of faith that “ all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness . . .” mean to Women during this period. Did the perceptions and role of women change or did society’s traditional expectations of women become greater?
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In most ways, it did not. The Enlightenment emphasis on equality did not extend in any real way to women, who were assumed to be incapable of carrying out the same roles that men did.
During the time surrounding the American Revolution, the dominant way of thinking about women in America was the idea of "republican motherhood." This idea held that women's most important role was to raise and educate their children in such a way that the children (boys, at least) would be able to participate in a democratic society.
One could argue that this was something of a step forward for women. Women were being assigned a role that was actually quite important for society as a whole. It was, of course, a role that was subordinate to mens' roles, but it was an important role nonetheless.
So, views of womens' roles changed to some degree in that people came to believe that women were important as the ones who would raise the next generation of Americans. However, this hardly lived up to the idea that everyone was created equal. Women might have moved up a step on the scale, but they were nowhere near to equal.
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