Charlene M. Boyer Lewis is a professor of history and the director of the American studies program at Kalamazoo College. She specializes in women's history, southern history, and American cultural and social history in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She is the author of Ladies and Gentlemen on Display: Planter Society at the Virginia Springs, 1790–1860 (2001), which focuses on the creation of southern planter identity at Virginia mountain resorts, and Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte: An American Aristocrat in the Early Republic (2012), which examines one woman's active role in the debates over society and culture in the early republic. Her next project is a study of Peggy Shippen Arnold and revolutionary America.
In the revolutionary era, the function of marriage and family in American society shifted and changed. Husband and wife, father and mother, daughter and son – all took on new meanings in this period. The expectations of spouses toward each other changed, with marriage increasingly carrying different emotional weight and higher expectations than in the past. Parents and children needed to negotiate new concepts of freedom with old concepts of loyalty and duty. This redefined American family emerged along with the new nation. The Revolution’s questioning of authority and emphasis on personal happiness contributed to the decline in the power of the patriarchal husband/father and the rise of an increasingly child-centered family presided over by a loving mother. The emotional lives of Americans would never be the same.