Uncle Tom's America

"... Unseen, unfelt, she extends her influence far and wide. She is forming the future patriot, statesman, or enemy of his country; more than this, she is sowing the seeds of virtue or vice, which will fit him for Heaven, or for eternal misery. Noble, sublime, is the task of the American mother - - see that it be well performed. ..."
from "Influence of Woman - Past and Present."
The Ladies' Companion, September 1840.

The modern reader of the nineteenth-century popular press can hardly avoid noting how frequently mothers and motherhood were the topic of novels, essays, verse, and stories. Four themes emerge as fundamental to the definition of the mid-century Mother-ideal: