The Good Mother
"Reading, solitude, idleness, a soft and sedentary life, intercourse with women and young people, these are perilous paths for a young man, and these lead him constantly into danger." - Jean Jacques Rousseau
Forms of Identity: Women Artists in the 90s at OCMA
Saturday, April 1
Maurice Quentin La Tour.
Jean Jacques Rousseau. 1753.











Emile: Or, On Education
by Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1762

Rousseau promoted the idea of the "good mother" = a woman who was completely committed to the care of her children and sacrificed all freedoms for their best interest
  • He demanded that middle class women devote themselves to the care of the family, breastfeeding, and keeping a comfortable home
  • "Rousseau viewed the saloniere as a threat to the natural dominance of men, the salon as a prison in which men were subjected to the rule of women." - Chadwick
Elisabeth-Louise Vigee-Lebrun, Portrait of Marie Antoinette with Her Children, 1787.











"When the preposterous charges of inappropriate behavior with her son were leveled against her, the unhappy mother made no reply. Urged anew to explain herself, she said, with extraordinary emotion, 'I thought that human nature would excuse me from answering such an imputation, but I appeal from it to the heart of every mother here present.'” - Awesome Stories
Alexandre Kucharski, Unfinished portrait of Marie-Antoinette, 1774 - 1792.











Leonard de Selva, Louis XVI Execution, 1793.












Jacques-Louis David, Marie Antoinette Awaiting Execution, 1793.












"[Early modern] women knew about the contraceptive effect of prolonged breast-feeding. They also made use of sponges, coitus interruptus, and abstinence, none of which was approved by the Church. Condoms made of animal bladders were known but lurked outside of respectability. The English called them 'French Letters'; the French in turn named them 'English hats.'" - Shari L. Thurer in Myths of Motherhood
  • average family in 17th century had 6.5 children
  • average family in the 18th century had 2 children
Rousseau must have seen the freedoms promised to women by birth control as threatening patriarchal control and thus advocated containing women to the domestic sphere because it was her "natural" place
Marguerite  Gerard, Motherhood, c. 1800.