The American People in Colonial New England

By James Axtell | Go to book overview

III. LOVE AND MARRIAGE

The Puritans have long been considered models of prudery and antiromanticism. In what ways were they concerned about sexual morality? What social institutions were responsible for its regulation? How successful were they? What do you think were their standards of "success"? Did they change over time? Why? In what ways were the Puritans romantic and sexually uninhibited? What were the legal conditions for a successful marriage? Were parents involved in their children's choices? At what age did New Englanders marry? Did it change over time? Why? In a day of ineffective contraception, did people make love before marriage? How do we know? Did the recorded patterns of prenuptual intercourse vary over time? What might account for these variations? Was all prenuptual intercourse regarded in the same way? What happened to children born out of wedlock? Who was responsible for their support?

Michael Wigglesworth's first wife died only three years after their marriage in 1655 and he did not remarry for twenty years. His second wife died in 1690, leaving him with seven children. The following document is the result of his courtship of his third wife, Sybil Avery, a physician's widow and the mother of three children. It appears in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, vol. 17 ( 1863), pp. 140-142.

Mrs. Avery
& my very kind friend.
I heartily salute you in ye Lord with many thanks for yor kind entertainment when I was with you March 2d. I have made bold once

-62-

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The American People in Colonial New England
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • THE AMERICAN PEOPLE 1
  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • About the Editor 6
  • Acknowledgments 7
  • Foreword 9
  • Introduction 13
  • I. Birth 15
  • Ii. Growth 36
  • Iii. Love and Marriage 62
  • Iv. Work and Play 78
  • V. Right and Wrong 101
  • Vii. Death 153
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