Women's Roles in Seventeenth-Century America

Women's Roles in Seventeenth-Century America

Women's Roles in Seventeenth-Century America

Women's Roles in Seventeenth-Century America

Synopsis

In Colonial America, the lives of white immigrant, black slave, and American Indian women intersected. Economic, religious, social, and political forces all combined to induce and promote European colonization and the growth of slavery and the slave trade during this period. This volume provides the essential overview of American women's lives in the seventeenth century, as the dominant European settlers established their patriarchy. Women were essential to the existence of a new patriarchal society, most importantly because they were necessary for its reproduction. In addition to their roles as wives and mothers, Colonial women took care of the house and household by cooking, preserving food, sewing, spinning, tending gardens, taking care of sick or injured members of the household, and many other tasks. Students and general readers will learn about women's roles in the family, women and the law, women and immigration, women's work, women and religion, women and war, and women and education. literature, and recreation.

Excerpt

Women’s Roles in Seventeenth-Century America describes, examines, and analyzes the lives of women and girls in the British North American colonies of the seventeenth century. In writing Women’s Roles in SeventeenthCentury America, I hope to achieve two goals. The first is to examine how seventeenth-century attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs about women affected and shaped their lives. Common beliefs about the weakness of women’s bodies and minds must have had an effect on many women, while the restrictions placed on women regarding such things as attending college or speaking in public prevented many women from entering careers or even expressing their views.

The other goal of this volume is to demonstrate how significant women were in shaping the world around them. Despite restrictions and prohibitions, some women did step outside of their usual roles to publish their work, to express religious beliefs, and to initiate court suits. Yet within their typical roles as wives and mothers, women were also important, as the early Chesapeake settlers found when there were few women in the settlement to cook, mend, and do laundry. The phrase “women’s roles” is somewhat misleading because it implies fixed positions and responsibilities for women, when, in fact, women’s roles in the seventeenth century were fluid and overlapping, as I suspect they have been in most periods of history. Not only were most women wives and mothers, but also at times, many of them were immigrants, church members or heretics, accused witches, court participants, teachers, servants, businesswomen, farmers, poets, and warriors—among other roles.

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