| The Cult of Domesticity |
As the early republic developed into an industrial rather than an agricultural nation, Americans' perception of the home changed significantly. Once the center of production for most commodities, the home became, instead of the place of work, a haven from work. The change manifested itself in the literature of the day, and eventually in a housing reform movement beginning in the early 1840's. For a look at domesticity and Uncle Tom's Cabin, please see one of my earlier projects, Uncle Tom's Houses the American domestic ideal 1840 to 1870.
| "True Womanhood" |
In 1966 historian Barbara Welter published an essay which has in some ways become a cornerstone for modern understanding of the middle class woman's place in Victorian America. In "The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-70" Welter asserts that there were four attributes seen as pillars of True Womanhood - piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity. According to Welter, "Put them all together and they spelled mother, daughter, sister, wife - woman. Without them, no matter whether there was fame, achievement or wealth, all was ashes. With them she was promised happiness and power." (p. 152)
| Cult of Motherhood |
Ann Douglas, in The Feminization of American Culture, writes, "The cult of motherhood was nearly as sacred in mid-nineteenth-century America as the belief in some version of democracy."(p. 74) In "Stowe's Dream of the Mother-Savior," Elizabeth Ammons claims that Stowe "heartily embraced the Victorian idealization of motherhood." (p. 159) Of the particulars of the "idolatry of motherhood" in UTC, Stephen Railton writes in Authorship and Audience, "They are the first principles of her [Stowe's] cultural faith." (p. 77)
Of course a definition for the nineteenth-century "Cult of Motherhood" is my central goal in creating this web site. Historians have carefully explored the "why" of the development and perpetuation of this concept; I hope that by dividing it as I have, into Mother's Love, Mother's Influence, Adulation of the Child, and the Pain of mother-child Separation, I have begun to answer the "how."
| America |
Throughout this site, I have used the terms "America" and "the United States" interchangeably. While I recognize that they are not synonyms, I find U.S.-specific versions, especially of the word "American," too cumbersome for use, particularly in a medium where brevity is a virtue.
| The Industrial Revolution |
I use this term to mean the enormous shift in the U.S. economic power-base that took place in the years surrounding, especially the years after, the turn of the nineteenth century. For a good synopsis of the course of events and their effect on home manufacture, see Douglas's The Feminization of American Culture, pp. 50-1.