Traditional gender roles and the mother's eventual role-reversal are the the primary focuses of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman's short story, "The Revolt of Mother." Mother Sarah Penn discovers that her husband, Adoniram, is constructing a new barn on the very spot that he has promised to build a new home. The existing barn is already much larger than their tiny, somewhat shabby but clean home. Throughout the story, Sarah hints to her husband that their present home is not proper for the upcoming wedding of their daughter. He pays no heed to Sarah's requests, however, and Sarah appears to continue in her subservient role as wife and mother. However, when Adoniram leaves for a few days on business, Sarah makes the decision to move their belongings from the house into the new barn. Sarah's neighbors and minister show concern, and many show up to witness Adoniram's reaction. When he returns, Sarah patiently explains to him that the family needs the new space more than the animals. Later, she finds her husband weeping, ashamed that he did not understand the depths of her desire for a new home.
In this case, the main focus and the theme are quite similar. Sarah is a strong woman but she readily accepts her role as secondary to her husband. He is the head of the family, the provider and the decision-maker. For 40 years of marriage, she has followed his lead, but when he leaves on business, she sees the move as "providence"--a true message from above. During his absence, she becomes the head of the household, and her strong stand is at last understood by her husband, who cries at the end. The role-reversal of the mother is complete.