Ursidae: The Undergraduate Research Journal at the University of Northern Colorado

Faculty Sponsor

Kraver, Jeraldine


Abstract: This article will examine the views expressed by American female writers about the roles of women and purposes of women’s education in the early 19th century. During the antebellum period (1820-1860), the American education system prepared white female students for two roles: to be teachers before marriage and to be ideal wives and mothers. This society believed that women, as wives and mothers, should manage the home and instill traditional American and Christian values in their children. During this period, women wrote a large body of nonfiction articles about social issues, such as education reform, and the roles of women. These writers advised their young female audience on how to be ideal wives and mothers. Additionally, the works by women most remembered from this period often come from the genre of domestic or sentimental fiction, defined as novels set in the home that glorify domesticity. The intention of many of these novels was also to advise female readers on how to properly manage their homes and families. This article analyzes how a selection of prominent female educators, nonfiction writers, and novelists consider women’s roles and the reasons women should be educated in their writing. While these writers agree that women should be educated to be successful wives and mothers to an extent, they display complex views about how women should be educated, why they should be educated, and what they should do with their educations in both the domestic and public spheres.