Linda Kerber argued in the mid-1980's that after the American Revolution (1775-1783), an ideology of "republican motherhood" resulted in a surge of educational opportunities for women in the United States. Kerber maintained that the leaders of the new nation wanted women to be educated in order to raise politically virtuous sons. A virtuous citizenry was considered essential to the success of the country's republican form of government; virtue was to be instilled not only by churches and schools, but by families, where the mother's role was crucial. Thus, according to Kerber, motherhood became pivotal to the fate of the republic, providing justification for an unprecedented attention to female education.
Introduction of the republican motherhood thesis dramatically changed historiography. Prior to Kerber's work, educational historians barely mentioned women and girls; Thomas Woody's 1929 work is the notable exception. Examining newspaper advertisements for academies, Woody found that educational opportunities increased for both girls and boys around 1750. Pointing to "An Essay on Woman" (1753) as reflecting a shift in view, Woody also claimed that practical education for females had many advocates before the Revolution. Woody's evidence challenges the notion that the Revolution changed attitudes regarding female education, although it may have accelerated earlier trends. Historians' reliance on Kerber's "republican motherhood" thesis may have obscured the presence of these trends, making it difficult to determine to what extent the Revolution really changed women's lives.
The passage suggests that, with regard to the history of women's education in the United States, Kerber's work differs from Woody's primarily concerning which of the following?
The extent to which women were interested in pursuing educational opportunities in the eighteenth century
The extent of the support for educational opportunities for girls prior to the American Revolution
The extent of public resistance to educational opportunities for women after the American Revolution
Whether attitudes toward women's educational opportunities changed during the eighteenth century
Whether women needed to be educated in order to contribute to the success of a republican form of government