Raised Quiverfull: Stay at Home Daughters

In what ways were boys and girls in your family raised differently vocationally (i.e., the boys pushed toward careers and the girls pushed toward homemaking)? How did this play out as you came of age (apprenticeship, college, staying home, etc.)?


The girls were not allowed to go to college.  Not until they escaped from the prison anyway.  Also, for years, Mama hated the idea of college due to Bill Gothard’s ignorance, and forbade any of the boys to plan their secondary education.  But, as we pushed and prodded, her position softened and we were able to go.

The path for the girls, from what I remember was only understood and never spoken about.  They were in a prison with walls made of “biblical” rules, watching their brothers dance on the key that would free them.


For many conservative Christians, higher education is seen as suspect because of the supposed liberal bias of universities and professors.  That was the case for my family as well.  However, my parents were unusual in our CP/Q community because they believed that even a daughter should be educated enough to support herself if necessary.  So they encouraged me to attend a very conservative Christian college such as Bob Jones University, Pensacola Christian College, or Moody Bible Institute. They advised me to choose an area of study that would allow me to supplement my future husband’s income by working from home after I had children.

Unfortunately, due to isolation, I had debilitating social anxiety at the time at graduated from high school; the thought of going to college terrified me.  Even though I was extremely unhappy at home, I chose to continue living with my parents for a few years before enrolling at a local community college with my brother.  After community college, my brother and I both left home for out-of-town universities.  By the time my sister had grown, my family was no longer involved in the CP/Q movement.

Libby Anne:

Growing up, I never once thought of having a career. I assumed from the very beginning, as I was taught to assume, that I would be a wife, mother, and homemaker and nothing else. The boys in contrast were always expected to have careers, and to choose jobs they could use to support a family. It was just the expectation that was there. Now because my parents valued education, I was sent to college. They actually spoke of that being my “dowry,” a sort of gift to a future husband. However, the goal wasn’t for me to think of a career, and I didn’t. I chose the field of study I did because it would allow me to tutor homeschool students and in that way perhaps bring my family a little extra income on the side, NOT because I planned to have a career in it (which I absolutely didn’t).


Moving out, going to college? That wasn’t an option at all – at least for the girls. We were taught rather strictly that daughters stayed at home until their husband came along. My Dad told me terrifying stories of young women who left their parents to go to college and got involved in “worldly” things. These stories usually ended with the girl being a drug addicted prostitute who’s now in rehab (optionally, her bastard child had been given up for adoption). I imagined colleges to be places where people had group sex right in the classrooms. I couldn’t imagine anything good coming from there. Education wasn’t as important since I was supposed to be a stay at home wife and mother anyway. Even if I didn’t marry and my parents were to die, I could move in with some other P/QF family and help them as a sort of adopted daughter, no matter the age.

Boys were raised to be hard working providers for a family. College was something that was encouraged, but not necessary. My Dad always believed that you could make good money and support a large family as long as you were a hard worker. The boys were also encouraged to grow up and make money rather early in life, in order to find a wife and get married. If you don’t have a job, you can’t get married, so finding something that would pay was elementary for any man. Missions were encouraged but my brothers were too young to do much of that before I left. My oldest brother is getting married soon, so I suppose he won’t be doing any traveling.


As I mentioned before, we were all somewhat pushed to go to college. The girls were expected to know how to keep a house and cook and care for babies, however. The boys learned some of those skills as well, but not in any deliberate fashion. Motherhood was upheld (for the girls) as being the highest calling, so the encouragement for girls in college is not so much for career-building purposes, but for educational benefit (we were raised to assume we’d eventually be stay-at-home moms).  The boys are encouraged to pursue their interests and passions in college, but there’s more concern for them to have a plan for how their degree will pay off later.


Boys were strongly encouraged to get into a business of their own. Being an entrepreneur was definitely seen as the best career. My parents did not think that college was that important (my Dad called a degree a “piece of paper”), they often talked about apprenticeship for the boys with some excitement. For girls, college was not needed at all. It would only put ideas of a career in our head and distract us from our true calling as a wife and mother. My parents ranged from strongly discouraging to outright banning further education for girls. We were expected to learn how to be a submissive and fruitful wife by practicing serving our father and pleasing him. Studying any topic that they felt wouldn’t fit well with a future of childbearing was discouraged or banned. For example, music was something you could do even while very pregnant or caring for a small baby, sports was not. Therefore music was encouraged, and sports were not.


I always knew that I was never going to go to college. My dad ridiculed higher education as a form of worldly indoctrination, unsuitable for emotional and vulnerable women. It was understood that we girls would stay at home until marriage to be mother’s helpers. My father served as a young man, so my brother assimilated to that goal. My father was very tough on my brother about his school work. He pushed him into higher and higher math and ridiculed him for lagging behind. There was zero emphasis put on education for me. My dad always said I only needed to learn enough math to teach my children. I always wanted to be a singer and perform in musicals, but my aspirations of musical theatre were strongly condemned. My voice would be used to serve God, and that was all.


Since my interactions with other boys and girls came mostly from other families in my church, I’ll answer this question as it pertains to them.

Boys were raised to gain a skill to support a family. More education than that was frowned upon. Girls were taught that they could grow up either to be mothers or at-home caretakers for their aging parents. The result was that boys were encouraged to pursue their studies and get good grades, and when girls mentioned their academic achievements they were told not to lose sight of their “highest calling.” Girls were frequently forbidden to go to college, and if they did, they took courses like photography and music so as to “edify” their future families.

I always wanted to get a job and be independent. I didn’t want to get married or have children. Older women in the church frowned upon this and aggressively promoted materials and activities like Beautiful Girlhood, Above Rubies, sewing circles, babysitting, etc. One woman went so far as to tell me that I needed to get over my anorexia because if I didn’t gain any fat, I wouldn’t be able to have babies. I told her that was just what I was hoping, and I’m pretty sure I made it onto several “prayer lists” later that day.


My father felt strongly that since a woman was created to be a helpmeet to a man and a keeper at home, it made no sense to prepare her for life in the way one would prepare a son. Thus I never had a job outside the home, career training of any kind, college, etc. Instead I helped my mother out around the house, did odd jobs for my father (bookkeeping, etc.) and read in my spare time. My brother chose not to go to college of his own volition, but he held a variety of jobs and apprenticeship positions throughout his teen years and early twenties, and so was able to gain some skills and experience that have enabled him to get by in life at the very least.

Strangely, in spite of the fact that so many opportunities were closed to me, my father blamed me for not showing more initiative and becoming a “Proverbs 31 woman.”  I felt like a disappointment to him in spite of the fact that I was doing nearly everything he wanted. It still wasn’t good enough.  Apparently I had to recreate the socio-economic system of an ancient civilization as well, and proceed to make myself a success within it if I wanted to be perfect.

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Raised Quiverfull Introduction — A Gendered Childhood Summary

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://enigmamyjourneyofselfdiscovery.blogspot.com Sarah Enigma

    I mean to say that my father served in the military when he was younger, and it was always assumed that my brother would follow in his footsteps.

  • http://www.ayoungmomsmusings.blogspot.com Melissa@Permission to Live

    I remember bringing up the idea that perhaps a woman should be educated in order to be able to support herself someday if she was widowed or abandoned by her husband. My father said that a woman in such a circumstance would be supporting by her father or brothers or her church. And that a proper courtship and start to a marriage would weed out any husband that would leave his wife anyway.

    • Charlesbartley

      [ boggles at your dad's statement] Yeah, and the Titanic is unsinkable and wouldn’t need full complement of life boats. This is the common mistake of using “would” instead of “should” and ignoring the consequences of thing failing to work out that way. All of us Homo Sapiens ate so bad at risk management.

      • Charlesbartley

        And at typing on iPads evidentially. “…are so bad at”

  • AnotherOne

    College as dowry. Oh my.

    And this is wonderful–so true that there’s this tacit agreement that the socio-economic norms of another era need to be recreated. Because don’t we all want to live in a world that combines upper middle class Victorian mores with a 6000-year-old Near Eastern tribal legal code?:

    “Strangely, in spite of the fact that so many opportunities were closed to me, my father blamed me for not showing more initiative and becoming a “Proverbs 31 woman.” I felt like a disappointment to him in spite of the fact that I was doing nearly everything he wanted. It still wasn’t good enough. Apparently I had to recreate the socio-economic system of an ancient civilization as well, and proceed to make myself a success within it if I wanted to be perfect.”

  • Red

    Wow, this system won’t let anyone be happy, will it? Even the guys, who are (sometimes) allowed to get out of the house and go to college, have to think about their lifetime vocation in terms of what will be financially beneficial (no wifely help with finances, please). That probably suppresses many guys who wish to be artists, writers, journalists, photographers….anything that doesn’t bring home a constant and fat paycheck. :( What a messed up way to live.

    • smrnda

      The Christian patriarchy crowd seems to hold entrepreneurship with as little education as possible as the highest ideal, which is probably not a real ticket to a fat paycheck as most business ventures don’t last more than a couple of years and quite a few are pretty much always on a precarious footing. It’s probably just part of the unrealistic ideal of a totally self-sufficient family or an idealization of the pioneer homestead, which was probably really a terrible way to actually live, primitive conditions and hard labor probably 16 hours a day just so stay alive.

      Perhaps a rule is that nobody should be happy. You get that a lot with really religious types – marriages aren’t about love in the sense of two people who really like each other – it’s about WORK where two people have to work as hard as possible not to hate each other and stay together, or else there are no brownie points.. The idea of compatibility is anathema just like the idea of ‘economically feasible’ seems to be.

  • shadowspring

    Sierra, you are awesome!

    To the others: I know your stories are true. I know my strong opinions in the other direction are why those like your parents shunned me and my family.

  • http://christiancompletely.blogspot.com/ Skarlet

    “In what ways were boys and girls in your family raised differently vocationally (i.e., the boys pushed toward careers and the girls pushed toward homemaking)? How did this play out as you came of age (apprenticeship, college, staying home, etc.)?”

    Well, our parents taught that raising children was an important role of the family, and that stay-at-home Moms (or Dads, if they wanted to have the Mom working) and homeschoolers were able to give the children the teaching and attention that would get them farther in life. Other than that, no direction or push was given regarding what careers any of us should go into. The only thing my parents insisted on was that all children should get a college degree.

    When I was 18 and out of high school, I wanted to immediately move down to Southern California and work at Disneyland, but my parents insisted that I should get an Associates degree before doing that. So I honored their wishes and did that. And I’m glad I did! (After I got my Associates, then, I worked at Disneyland for a while. Best job I’ve ever had. I’m currently working to complete my Bachelor’s degree). On the other hand, I do want to take care of my kids at home (not daycare) when I have them, and want to homeschool them. I want them to have an awesome experience like I did. So, obviously those values about child-rearing did sink in. I would equally be glad if my husband taught the kids and I worked, though, so it’s not about gender-roles.

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