The Colonial Family Ethic
The Development of Families, the Ideology of Women's Roles, and the Labor of Women
Only a few women accompanied the first exploring parties and trading companies that reached North America. Several dozen female names appeared on the passenger lists before 1616, but not until 1619 did the numbers begin to grow. The European nations and commercial trading companies expected to reap quick profits from the riches of America. 1 Presuming no need for permanent migration, they typically sent male traders, explorers, and fortune hunters to the New World. But once they discovered that commercial profits and economic development required stabilized communities rather than rapid exploitation, 2 the trading companies began to bring women to America to stimulate the formation of families. The need for women's reproductive and productive labor led to the recruitment of wives, indentured servants, and slaves to the colonies. Only a few settlers married Native American women who already lived on and worked what, for the European explorers, was a new land.