University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Women in the Early Republic
Women played a big part in their husband’s roles in government, although they were not allowed to vote at this time. Women like Dolley Madison made their husband’s presidency more successful. Women also became more involved with the churches, and education. They believed that it was important for women to be as educated as men. Women made up most of the church congregants, as they had for a while. In New England colonies, they started to let women work alongside men on church committees, deciding on the admission of new members, debating doctrinal points, and hiring ministers.
Quakers especially liked this; they had always found much talent in women ministers. Unlike the men, the women did not prepare their speeches ahead of time; instead however, they spoke from the heart. One woman, after having a near death experience, became known as “the Publick Universal Friend”. Jemima Wilkinson claimed that she was no longer a woman, nor a man. She dressed in men’s clothes, wore her hair in a mannish style, and preached openly in Philadelphia and Rhode Island. She ended up in New York with two hundred and fifty followers. This was only part of the change that women had in the early republic.
Girls had started attending school also; this started in the North and eventually moved down to the Southern states. They usually went to public schools called district schools, and they offered very basic education. Often girls attended summer sessions and were separated from the boys. By the 1830s, many private academies had opened for teenage girls. These schools had the basics they would need such as drawing, needlework, music, dancing, and talking in French; however, they also had Latin, theology, algebra, geometry, chemistry, and physics the same as most teenage boys would learn.
Emma Willard founded Troy Female Seminary in New York, and Catharine Beecher founded Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, and they turned out to be the most prestigious seminaries. Both schools taught teaching, because they believed women made better teachers than men. This was especially important for the students attending Hartford Seminary because most of them did not have a father.
That meant that they needed extra practice for employment. There were many men who did not like the idea of omen having an education, because they did not want the women to outsmart them. However, there were men that appreciated their wife’s help. James Madison’s, for example, helped him a lot with the presidency. She threw many parties, which they called “squeeze”. These “squeezes” were a big deal, and many people were invited to them. At these parties many people made new friends and were able to make deals, trade information, acquire information, or gain political information, and many people took advantage of them.
Many people referred to Dolley Madison as ‘presidentress’. Mrs. Madison also threw many gatherings with her close circle of friends, who would talk about their husband’s roles in the government. This was never even thought of by women before, and men definitely would have never allowed it. As time passed from the start of the colonies to the 1900s women were able to do many more things. They were finally allowed to get an education, teach in churches, and also they could have more meetings about their thoughts on the government.