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Roles of Women in the Economic Success of Colonial New England

Essay by review  •  February 11, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  785 Words (4 Pages)  •  1,203 Views

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We have all undoubtedly heard of the revolutionary men who shaped the original colonies into a great nation but few people realize the importance women's roles played in the economic success of the New England colonies. This paper will highlight how the colonial women affected economy and contributed to the success of the British colonies. Women have always played a major role in history and the economics of the colonial period is no different. Additionally, one will see how women contributed to the economy of the time by suppling many of the material goods used at the time. However, one will also see how despite all of the economic contributions women made to colonial society their contributions did not lead to greater independence.

Colonial economy was based upon many factors. Each colonial region developed its own diversified economy. Often times the economy was based on what types of agriculture and business were suited for the area that was colonized. Women often participated in trade to supplement the diets or incomes of their families. Items of the New England colonies traded during this era included grains, livestock, produce, fur, and quilts. Other colonial women such as Hannah Grafton served as a shopkeeper in her husbands absence in addition to her domestic duties of wife and mother.

During the colonial period women's roles and work were exhausting and society defined a good wife as one who performed her duties in anonymity. At times, a family's individual economy affected the amount of hardship the woman or women of the family would endure. The colonial period was a difficult time. Often times a family's individual economy affected the woman's role in the household. During the colonial period woman's primary job was that of homemaker as exemplified by the Biblical Bathsheba. As described in Proverbs ,

"She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.

She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens."(p.13)

Families with limited financial resources had to sell their personal goods or labor to feed and clothe themselves. In poor families, the housewives had to cook meals, make clothing, and clean in addition to making household goods to use and sell. Middle class and upper class women shared in most of these chores in their households, but often had servants to help.

During this period, women were the chief manufacturers of goods for consumption or sale. The men provided the raw materials, the women in turn would then process the raw materials into useful products such as clothing, butter, cheese, cured meats, and other food products. Women's roles of "Mother of All Living" as exemplified by the



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