Linda Kerber, “The Republican Mother: Women and the Enlightenment – An American Perspective”

Kerber investigates the place of women within the rhetoric and ideology of the Enlightenment. She notes that Enlightenment thinker rarely considered women with theorizing about civic culture and, with a few notable exceptions including Adam Smith, when they did, tended to do so negatively. She argues that women were only considered as wives and mothers, with no mechanism for influencing government. The concept of the “Republican Mother” arose in the American environment as a way to integrate domesticity and politics. In this role, women were “deferential” citizens (59) with limited influence but not strictly excluded. Instead, women remained in a deferential phase of politicization where men in the early republic moved away from deference.