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American CreedPhilanthropy and the Rise of Civil Society, 1700–1865$
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Kathleen D. McCarthy

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780226561981

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226561998.001.0001

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The Feminization of Republicanism

The Feminization of Republicanism

(p.30) 2 The Feminization of Republicanism
American Creed
University of Chicago Press

Beginning at the threshold of the nineteenth century, a small but growing number of privileged women such as Graham used their charities to recast the parameters of republicanism, collectively reclaiming the rights denied them by custom and common law. Historians have tended to emphasize “republican motherhood” as the Revolution's primary legacy for women. Two kinds of female-controlled charities were created for women and children in the 1790s: asylums and charities providing employment and outdoor relief. For many impoverished women, incarceration in the public almshouse must have been a terrifying prospect. White women's charities also gave new meaning to the rhetoric of republicanism and widened political roles. Historians have been quick to point out that discussions about the role of republicanism in the new nation were “primarily a male discourse,” emphasizing the subordination of self-interest for the public weal. A second way in which women's charities legitimized their authority by building on republican rhetoric was their use of what one would now term the nonprofit form.

Keywords:   women, republicanism, primary legacy, charities, common law

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