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The Valiant WomanThe Virgin Mary in Nineteenth-Century American Culture$
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Elizabeth Hayes Alvarez

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781469627410

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469627410.001.0001

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Queen of Heaven and Queen of the Home

Queen of Heaven and Queen of the Home

Mary and Models of Domestic Queenship, 1880s–1900

(p.146) Chapter Five Queen of Heaven and Queen of the Home
The Valiant Woman

Elizabeth Hayes Alvarez

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter explores the rhetoric and imagery of domestic queenship that evolved in response to and alongside the “New Woman.” While such rhetoric was used both to resist and promote woman’s rights, queenship had the potential to establish a less sacrificial model of womanhood. Because Mary’s queenship was a culturally available, traditional image of female transcendence, it provided a way to invoke female power without appearing to undermine traditional social norms. These motifs created models of womanhood with more personal agency and self-determination. However, the theological content embedded in Marian imagery always included traditional, non-threatening virtues—such as gentleness, humility, and maternity. In some cases, domestic queenship helped justify women’s entrance to the public sphere by cloaking increases in activity and power in reassuring, maternalistic rhetoric. However, these same elements also constrained the future usefulness of the Mary symbol to woman’s empowerment once significant gains had been made.

Keywords:   domestic queenship, maternalism, New Woman, Queen of Heaven, Virgin Mary, woman’s rights, womanhood

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