Women played an integral role in the development of colonial America, despite having few legal rights. The experiences of women during the colonial era varied greatly from colony to colony and among different ethnic groups. Among Puritan settlers in New England, wives almost never worked in the fields with their husbands.
In German communities in Pennsylvania, however, many women worked in fields and stables. German and Dutch immigrants granted women more control over property, which was not permitted in the local English law. Unlike English colonial wives, German and Dutch wives owned their own clothes and other items and were also given the ability to write wills disposing of the property brought into the marriage.
Often, women were taught to read so that they could learn the Bible, but few were taught to write, as it was thought there was no reason for a woman to know how to write.
A colonial woman was expected to be subservient to her father until she married, at which point she became subservient to her husband. Ministers often told their congregations that women were inferior to men and more inclined to sin and err.
However, women continued to have very few rights. They were not allowed to vote and lost most control of their property if they had any to begin with in marriage. They could not divorce, and even single women could not make contracts, sue anyone, or be sued, at least until the late 18th century.
InLydia Chapin Taft of Uxbridge, Massachusetts, became the only colonial woman known to vote, casting a vote in the local town hall meeting in place of her deceased husband. From untilthe state constitution in New Jersey permitted all persons worth 50 pounds who resided in the state for one year to vote; free black people and single women therefore had the vote untilbut not married women, as their property ownership was invariably limited. The typical woman in colonial America was expected to run a household and attend to domestic duties such as spinning, sewing, preserving food, animal husbandry, cooking, cleaning, and raising children.
Families tended to be large, and childbearing could be dangerous prior to advancements in medicine and health care.
When necessary, it was the responsibility of the colonial housewife to help her husband in agriculture or artisanal endeavors. Mothers were also responsible for the spiritual and civic well-being of their children.
In the colonial era, the commonly held idea was that good housewives would raise good children who would become upstanding citizens in the community. As a wife, the woman was to be dutiful, obedient, faithful, and subservient to her husband. Legal statutes and societal norms allowed for husbands to exert power over their wives, which could result in violent circumstances. Some housewives were able to file for divorces, but these instances were not the norm. Isaac Royall and his family, portrait by Robert Feke : Women in colonial America typically held the role of housewife and were responsible for domestic chores and child rearing.
Martha Moore Ballard — was an American midwife and healer who is known for keeping a diary during the latter half of her life, with thousands of entries over nearly three decades.
This diary has provided historians with invaluable insight into the lives of women in the colonial era. From when she was 50 until her death inMartha Ballard kept a diary that recorded her work and domestic life in Hallowell on the Kennebec River, District of Maine. The log of daily events, written with a quill pen and homemade ink, records numerous babies delivered and illnesses treated as she traveled by horse or canoe around the Massachusetts frontier in what is today the state of Maine. Ballard delivered babies over the years that she wrote her diary and was present at more than 1, births.
Her diary also records her administering medicines and remedies, which she made from local plants and occasionally from ingredients bought from a local physician. Ballard was sometimes called to observe autopsies, and she also took testimonies from unwed mothers that were used in paternity suits.
In addition to her medical and judicial responsibilities, Ballard frequently carried out tasks such as trading, weaving, and social visits. Evaluate what the Salem witch trials reveal about the role of religion and the role of women in the colonies. The Salem witch trials were a series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts between February and May The trials resulted in the executions of 20 people, 14 of them women and all but one by hanging.
Salem intercaste marriage: woman tells police she wants to stay with parents
Five others including two infant children died in prison. Twelve other women had ly been executed for witchcraft in Massachusetts and Connecticut during the 17th century. It has been used in political rhetoric and popular literature as a vivid cautionary tale about the dangers of isolationism, religious extremism, false accusations, and lapses in due process.
What happened in colonial America was not unique, but rather an example of the much broader phenomenon of witch trials that occurred during the early modern period throughout England and France. Like many other Europeans, the Puritans of New England believed in the supernatural. Events such as the sickness or death of children, the loss of cattle, and other catastrophes were often blamed on the work of witches.
Women were more susceptible to suspicions of witchcraft because they were perceived, in Puritan society, to have weaker constitutions that were more likely to be inhabited by the Devil. Hundreds were accused of witchcraft including townspeople whose habits or appearance bothered their neighbors or who appeared threatening for any reason.
Women made up the vast majority of suspects and those who were executed. Prior tothere had been rumors of witchcraft in villages neighboring Salem Village and other towns. In Salem Village, in FebruaryBetty Parris, age 9, and her cousin Abigail Williams, age 11, began to have fits in which they screamed, threw things, uttered strange sounds, crawled under furniture, and contorted themselves into peculiar positions.
A doctor could find no physical evidence of any ailment, and other young women in the village began to exhibit similar behaviors. Colonists suspected witchcraft and accusations began to spread. The first three people accused and arrested for allegedly causing the afflictions were Sarah Good a homeless beggarSarah Osborne a woman who rarely attended churchand Tituba an African or American Indian slave.
They were left to defend themselves.
Throughout the year, more women and some men were arrested, including citizens in good standing, and colonists began to fear that anyone could be a witch. Many of the accusers who prosecuted the suspected witches had been traumatized by the American Indian wars on the frontier and by unprecedented political and cultural changes in New England.
Relying on their belief in witchcraft to help make sense of their changing world, Puritan authorities executed 20 people and caused the deaths of several others before the trials were over.
Married women in salem
Learning Objectives Discuss the role of women in the colonies. Key Takeaways Key Points The experiences of women during the colonial era varied greatly from colony to colony and among different ethnic groups. Generally, colonial women were expected to be subservient to their fathers until they married, at which point they became subservient to their husbands.
Martha Ballard was an American midwife and healer whose diary, in which she wrote thousands of entries over nearly three decades, has provided historians with invaluable insight into the lives of women in the colonial era. Key Terms husbandry : The management and care of farm animals by humans. Puritan : A group of English Reformed Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries who sought to reform the Church of England from all Roman Catholic practices.
The Salem Witch Trials The Salem Salem married women trials of were the earliest examples of mass hysteria in the country. Learning Objectives Evaluate what the Salem witch trials reveal about the role of religion and the role of women in the colonies.
Key Takeaways Key Points The Salem witch trials were a series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts between and The trials resulted in the executions of 20 people, 14 of them women. All but one were hanged; five others including two infant children died in prison. Initially, those accused of witchcraft tended to be outcasts in some way or another, but as the trials went on, even citizens in good standing were not immune from accusations.
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