Stepanski, Lisa M.
Lisa Stepanski is Associate Professor and former English Department chair at Emmanuel College, Boston, MA. She earned her Ph.D. in English, with specializations in Composition Studies and American Literature, from the University of New Hampshire.2011 0-7734-1485-1
The rapid industrialization of New England in the mid-nineteenth century gave rise to the "motherteacher" ideology, a cultural paradigm that profoundly shaped public discussions of child rearing practices and elementary education in the United States. This study explores the motherteaching practices of three nineteenth-century figures, Bronson, Abba May, and Louisa May Alcott. Using personal writing as their primary child rearing tool. the Alcotts promoted what literary historian Richard Brodhead terms "disciplinary intimacy" as a means of instructing youngsters in proper behavior and parentaly sanctioned values.
This study, which draws extensively on primary source materials, including family letters and journals, focuses on the potent relationship between literacy, maternal authority, and discipline in the private and public spaces of the Alcott home and Bronson's grammar school classrooms.
This study sheds new light on the Alcotts as educators whose educational philosophy and teaching experiences illuminate more fully the debate over education reform, as well as changing mores in family life at mid-century.