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Family Semiotics and the Experience of Women in the Early American Republic

Evans, Molly Charlotte (2023) Family Semiotics and the Experience of Women in the Early American Republic. Master of Arts by Research (MARes) thesis, University of Kent,. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.101702) (KAR id:101702)


This thesis addresses the familial roles occupied by women in the Early American Republic (c.1770s-1820s), when, despite a lack of direct political power, they inherited aspects of the Revolution and were invested with a sense of political and educational responsibility for imparting republican values to future generations. In an era and a historiography dominated by 'Founding Fathers', it considers how familial semiotics were expressed and historicised, to emphasise particular female analogies, aspirations, and limitations. A young woman played a variety of familial roles; mother, wife, sister, and daughter; all of which retained its own expectations and responsibilities and consequently placed a heavy burden on the shoulders of the daughters of the revolution. The thesis addresses how familial concepts were invoked at the time and subsequently engaged - both within and beyond scholarship - drawing on an interdisciplinary American Studies framework and sources in visual and popular culture as well as historical texts. It argues we need to extend the family metaphor to incorporate daughterhood and sisterhood, constructing an overarching image of womanhood and its many layers. This reflection of womanhood and the new female identity that was forged in the private sphere, is portrayed through case studies of three prominent female figures. These case studies are broken down into individual familial terms to signpost how their responsibilities changed as they matured; to showcase their dedication to the republic; and to highlight the differences between the male and female roles in society. The thesis closes by drawing on a multi-disciplinary approach to consider the legacies of 'Founding Mothers' and how these female revolutionaries were romanticised and folded into notions of identity and politics in different ways. Their lives were viewed and deployed differently from their male counterparts, but it remains vital that scholars continue to address and develop their meanings, whilst portraying the value of the domestic sphere and kinship.

Item Type: Thesis (Master of Arts by Research (MARes))
Thesis advisor: Marsh, Ben
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.101702
Subjects: E History America
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2023 08:10 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Jun 2023 07:34 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Evans, Molly Charlotte.

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