Women artists broke away from the Academy and male counterparts by focusing on themes that were of interest to them, even if the themes may not have been considered worthy at the time.

Mary Casssatt
Mother and Child (The Oval Mirror) c1899

Mother and child themes were extensively explored by both Cassatt and Morisot throughout their artist careers.  This intimate moment represented contemporary life rather than the idealized "madonna and child" depiction favored by the Salon. 

Cassatt's Mother and Child shows the bond between mother and son by them embracing each other rather than by gazing into each other's eyes.  Cassatt's boldness in bringing the nude child as a boy rather than as a baby Jesus, talks more about the love between parent and baby rather than a stiff religious painting. The oval mirror, on the other hand, plays symbolically like a halo, which is rounded. The scene, though reverent, doesn't seem to be imbued with heavy religious overtones, rather it is more a scene of daily intimacy.

Morisot's painting is a portrait of her cousin and her child.  Her composition is traditional, but her painterly brushstrokes belie her allegiance to the Impressionists by conferring to this piece a sense of impermanence.  Unlike Cassatt's painting, the two figures look at the viewer in more of a posed perspective.

Berthe Morisot
Portrait of Maria Boursier and her daughter 1874 

Mary Cassatt
Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, 1878

These two paintings show radically different perspectives on children

Cassatt's Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, prominently focuses on the little girl, lit in the foreground as she sprawls with a carefree attitude on the sofa.  Her little dog, a prized posession of French women, accompanies her.  Her arms akimbo, the girl is in her private world with petulant boredom.  The unusual perspective may have been influenced by her recent friendship with Degas.  The sofas are treated in a painterly blue with pattern, and unlike the Salon,which portrayed children with sweetness, this child is allowed to be herself.  Cassatt wrote,  "I love to paint children.  They are so natural and truthful."  (Pollock, Griselda; Mary Cassatt, p131)

Morisot's Little Girls in the Garden blends the children so that they are one with the background.  The girl in the foreground looks longingly as if to be on the other side of the gate.  The study seems more to be about the play of light on landscape and children rather than about the kids themselves. 

Morisot and Cassatt distinguish themselves from the Salon by focusing their composition on children at play, lost in their environment.

Berthe Morisot
Little Girls in the Garden 1885