The Revolutionary War

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How did the American Revolution impact gender roles?

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One way the American Revolution altered gender roles was the emergence of an ideology that historian Linda Kerber called "republican motherhood". This was the concept that women had an important political role to play in a republican society, but that that role should be limited to within the home. Women, it was thought, were important because they could impart to their children the virtue and morality that were necessary to sustain a republican government. For many elite women, this meant a new emphasis on education. However, most of the patriarchal laws the characterized gender relations in colonial times persisted after the Revolution. For example, coverture, the English common law principle that made women (and their property) legally one with their husbands remained in force. Still, as historian Rosemarie Zagarri has argued, many women, charged with revolutionary ideals, did actively participate in politics, even voting in New Jersey, which temporarily conferred this right upon women. She argues that the Revolution "profoundly changed" the "popular understanding of women's rights" and that women made a claim to being serious political actors during the Revolutionary era. This window of opportunity, however, closed with the ascent of Jacksonian democracy in the 1820s, though even then women remained politically active through clubs and other organizations.  

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