The American Revolution, which happened during the last half of the eighteenth century, reshaped many aspects of life in America. The desire of the Founding Fathers to make America a republic played a very significant part in changing the role of women after the Revolution. The role of women as wives became more important as an emphasis on virtue was established; women were encouraged to find virtuous husbands and utilize their seductive nature to keep men virtuous. The roles of women as mothers also became more important in the republic, as patriarchy loosened and mothers were depended on to educate their children in the republican way. And finally, the role of women in politics was theoretically reduced due to the increasing demands of their domestic roles, but they managed to develop methods to convey their opinions. All three of these roles had setbacks for women, but they also had significant positive affects on the role of women in the republic. Women became more valued in terms of their domestic roles as wives and partners to their husbands, and their roles as mothers and educators of their children. Also, though politics and state affairs were very exclusive to men, women of the republic managed to find ways to have their voices heard.
In the ideal republic, all of its citizens were virtuous and aiming for the common good. This was the conclusion reached by the Founding Fathers after interpreting the failures of ancient Greek/Roman republics and more modern (and mostly European) republics. If the citizens were not virtuous, internal strife, factionalism, and corruption would eventually cause the republic to collapse. Of course, the “citizens” that the Founding Fathers were talking about were the men.
That being said, with most virtuous men came a wife and a family. According to many Republican magazine articles of the early nineteenth century, it would be difficult for men to be virtuous if their wives were not. Their wives had to be as rational as nineteenth century men believed women could be, and they were to use their sexuality to tempt their husbands to desire the greater good. While biblical Eve’s, and essentially all women’s, most threatening trait was considered to be the power of seduction, the Republican wife was expected to use her seductive influence to preserve her husband in a virtuous state.
Women and girls in the Republic were encouraged to search for a husband themselves rather than depend on their families. There was a set of general “guidelines” created by numerous Republican magazines for these women when choosing a husband. Many of these magazines placed emphasis on the ideal man being virtuous, of course, along with having a good temper, having a good education without being a perfectionist, being religious without superstition etc. In other words, a woman was to find a husband that possessed a happy medium in all of his traits so that she would always be pleased.
There were also guidelines for men when...