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In the Classroom > Course Overview > Unit Overview > Lesson 10
Lesson 10
Women's Roles Begin to Change

In the years following the American Revolution, women's roles began to change. Technology improved and household tasks were restructured, but this did not necessarily mean the work was less burdensome since often the housewife's standards went up. Women were also beginning to take on a moral authority and develop a sphere of control. Care of the well ordered home, still often comprised of more people than the nuclear family, placed complex demands on women. The women with responsibilities for childcare, health care, supervision of servants, and the expectations of hospitality were also supposed to reflect moderation in their demeanor and in their surroundings. A tranquil, controlled, cheerful home was the aim of a respected mistress.

For some women, the period of republicanism following the war meant the women as well as the men could participate in public activities outside of the home. Women joined church groups to promote social well-being through charity. A republican form of government required that those who would lead a republic (government) must learn to sacrifice for the common good. This virtue was assigned to women -- to rear sons who would be both moral and virtuous citizens to lead the nation. Women had a civic role to play that was essential to the continuance of a republican state. This shift from hearth and home to actively impacting a republican government through their moral influence and their role in educating their children has been described as the "cult of domesticity."

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