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Revolutionary Conceptions: Women, Fertility, and Family Limitation in America, 1760-1820



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In the Age of Revolution, how did American women conceive their lives and marital obligations? By examining the attitudes and behaviors surrounding the contentious issues of family, contraception, abortion, sexuality, beauty, and identity, Susan E. Klepp demonstrates that many women--rural and urban, free and enslaved--began to radically redefine motherhood. They asserted, or attempted to assert, control over their bodies, their marriages, and their daughters' opportunities. Late-eighteenth-century American women were among the first in the world to disavow the continual childbearing and large families that had long been considered ideal. Liberty, equality, and heartfelt religion led to new conceptions of virtuous, rational womanhood and responsible parenthood. These changes can be seen in falling birthrates, in advice to friends and kin, in portraits, and in a gradual, even reluctant, shift in men's opinions. Revolutionary-era women redefined femininity, fertility, family, and their futures by limiting births. Women might not have won the vote in the new Republic, they might not have gained formal rights in other spheres, but, Klepp argues, there was a women's revolution nonetheless.

Author Biography

Susan E. Klepp is professor of history and affiliated professor of women's studies and of African American studies at Temple University. She is author or coeditor of six books and editor of the Journal of the Early Republic.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. v
List of Illustrationsp. ix
List of Tablep. xiii
Introduction First to Fall: Fertility, American Women, and Revolutionp. 1
Starting, Spacing, and Stopping: The Statistics of Birth and Family Sizep. 21
Old Ways and Newp. 56
Women's Wordsp. 88
Beauty and the Bestial: Images of Womenp. 128
Potions, Pills, and Jumping Ropes: The Technology of Birth Controlp. 179
Increase and Multiply: Embarrassed Men and Public Orderp. 215
Reluctant Revolutionariesp. 248
Conclusion: Fertility and the Feminine in Early Americap. 272
Appendixp. 287
Indexp. 305
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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