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Toolbox Library, primary resources thematically organized with notes and discussion questionsOnline Seminars, professional development seminars for history and literature teachersThe Triumph of Nationalism/The House Dividing, 1815-1850
The Triumph of Nationalism/The House Dividing
Topic: Culture of the Common ManTopic: Cult of DomesticityTopic: ReligionTopic: ExpansionTopic: America in 1850
Topic: Cult of Domesticity
Overview of Triumph of Nationalism
Resource Menu: Cult of Domesticity
Text 1. Elizabeth Stuart Phelps
Text 2. Caroline Gilman
Text 3. Catharine E. Beecher
Text 4. Harriet Jacobs
Text 5. Fanny Fern
Text 6. Godey's Lady's Book
Text 7. Rev. Theodore Parker
» Reading Guide
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Text 8. Elizabeth Cady Stanton


RESOURCE MENU » Reading Guide Link

Reading Guide
7.  Rev. Theodore Parker, "Of the Public Function of Woman," sermon delivered in Boston, 1853 (concluding section)

Here is a unique voice in this resource menu—that of a man. One who understands that isolating women in their domestic role squanders a natural resource that society should nourish. And one who can argue this point to men. Theodore Parker, a liberal Unitarian minister in Boston, was well-known as a social reformer, abolitionist, and scholar; additionally, he was an early member of the Transcendental Club. Social justice was his cause, yet he knew to base his arguments for "the public function of women" on grounds that would resonate with a wide audience—efficiency, honest government, natural law, the progress of Christendom. It takes a while for Parker to warm up in this sermon, but by page six he is forging ahead with his challenge to make woman's "human nature human history." In excerpts, would be useful in the classroom. 8 pages.


Discussion questions
  ·  What is the "public function of women" that Parker espouses? What can women offer society that men cannot?
  ·  In addition, how will society benefit from the "excellence of man and woman both united"?
  ·  How does he employ the notion of women's "natural rights?"
  ·  How does he employ the notion of duty?
  ·  In what ways does Parker's characterization of women epitomize mid-19th century attitudes? In what ways is he modern, even radical, for his time?
  ·  How would the women authors in this Topic respond to Parker's call for women's rights?


Reading highlights
  ·  Note how Parker uses the similarities among men and women to advance his position.
  ·  Note Parker's careful timing in using language from the Declaration of Independence.


» Link


Topic Framing Questions
  •  How did women of this period define themselves? What stories did they choose to tell?
  •  In what ways did these women exercise—and define—power and influence?
  •  How did the “cult of domesticity” shape the debate over woman’s place in antebellum American society?
  •  In what ways did this debate reflect the prevailing tensions of race, class, region, and religion in American society?




Toolbox: The Triumph of Nationalism / The House Dividing
Common Man | Cult of Domesticity | Religion | Expansion | America in 1850

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Toolbox Library: Primary Resources in U.S. History and Literature
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