The desire of the Founding Fathers to make America a successful republic played a significant part in changing the many roles that women found themselves in after the Revolution. The role of women as wives became more important as republican ideals established an emphasis on marriage. Society saw marriage as a miniature representation of a republic. Therefore, republican ideals like independence and the freedom from arbitrary power allowed women as wives more value and power within their families. The roles of women as mothers also became more important in the republic, as patriarchy loosened and the nation depended on mothers to educate American 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 in the republic, but there were also significant positive effects. Women became more valued in 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 modern European republics. If the citizens were not virtuous, internal strife, factionalism, and corruption would cause the republic to collapse. Of course, “citizens” only referred to men.
That being said, with most virtuous men came a wife and a family. As written by 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 were to be as rational as nineteenth century men believed women could be, and they were to use their sexuality to tempt their husbands into desiring the greater good. While the Bible considered a woman’s most treacherous trait to be her power to seduce, the magazines urged the Republican wife to use her seductive influence to preserve her husband in a virtuous state.
The Republic encouraged women and girls to search for a husband themselves instead of depending on their families -namely, their fathers- to find one. 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, as an ideal republic considered virtue to be the most important trait for a citizen, along with having a good education without being a perfectionist, being religious without superstition, etc. In other words, a woman was to find a husband that had a happy medium in his traits.
There were guidelines for men when choosing a wife, written by the same republican...