The Home Front: 1861 to 1865

Parents’ Roles

What were mothers and fathers like in 1861?

The first part of the answer is to flip the order that you see above. Put it as “fathers and mothers,” and the sequence will be more accurate.

In 1861, the American father was not only the head of the household, but the moral and spiritual center of it. This is immediately surprising to us because in the twenty-first century it is almost axiomatic that a home lives or dies according to the condition of the mother. But that social condition that we know so well is largely the product of two centuries of the Industrial Revolution, which took the father out of the home and made the mother all-important in the home. Does this mean women were devalued in the mid-nineteenth century? Not at all. Rather, it means that most observers, including the children, saw the father as the pillar of the family.


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